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Abstract

This paper explores emerging themes from our ongoing cross-cultural research (UK and Qatar) into the experience of miscarriage. The approach is grounded in medical anthropology theory and methods, but the project is particularly exciting because of its commitment to interdisciplinarity: the research is informed and led by collaboration between anthropologists (medical and material culture) and medical doctors. Globally, one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage; thus, pregnancy loss is a common women's health issue. Despite its frequency, few researchers have been there to record and interpret the suffering that accompanies reproduction disruption. This is "particularly noteworthy, given the human drama engendered by reproductive failure and its rising worldwide incidence" (Inhorn 1994:459). Reproductive "awry-ness," is produced within particular historical moment and cultural settings: the project aims to better understand the experience of miscarriage in the specific context of Qatar. The research incorporates 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Qatar: our main method is semi-structured interviews, but we combine this with other forms of data collection. We observe clinical encounters (doctors appointments, sonography sessions) and conduct participant observation. Themes explored include: the theories of miscarriage causation, cultural significance of reproduction, development of fetal personhood, cultural practices (ie burial) around the fetus, and the impact of religion. All of these forces impact the way a Qatari woman might experience the loss of a baby. Our focus on pregnancy and loss provides a lens through which we can better understand broader themes in Qatari culture; providing valuable ethnographic material on Qatari social life. The paper focuses on the way in which a miscarriage impacts the social role of women in Qatar. Islam is a "pronatalist" religion and procreation is considered to be one of the most important pillars of society. The social status of the Muslim woman, her dignity and her self-esteem are closely related to her procreation potential in the family and in society as a whole (Serour 1993). The fertility rate in Qatar remains high, with it reaching 4 live births per each Qatari woman in 2007 and the average number of children is 5. Men and women experience pressure to produce children and the inability to do so can cause anxiety and lead to marital strife. This paper explores the role of motherhood in Qatar and reflects on how not fulfilling this role may impact a woman. Such a focus is particularly timely given the changing nature of women's participation in Qatari society (i.e. education, work). In our interviews, women suggested they are largely blamed for reproductive problems and failures. Participants also felt that their emotional and psychological state was central to the health and temperament of their baby. Evil eye is often cited as a cause of miscarriage as is linked to envy. By using ethnographic material we explore the way a miscarriage (Tasqeet) may mean lost motherhood and lost potential for the woman. However, a miscarriage also produces a particular kind of being, a "bird in heaven" who protects its mother and speaks for her on judgment day.

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/content/papers/10.5339/qfarc.2014.SSOP0044
2014-11-18
2019-12-12
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