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Kassen Lecture: “Dangerous Care: Reproductive Violence, Fast and Slow”

The Department of Anthropology will host the annual Kassen Lecture with this year’s guest speaker Claire Wendland, professor in the department of anthropology, obstetrics & gynecology, and medical history and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She will present “Dangerous Care: Reproductive Violence, Fast and Slow” Thursday, Oct. 13, from 4:15 to 5:30 p.m. in Mather Memorial Building, Room 201. A reception will follow her lecture.

In Malawi, public attention to high maternal death rates has often prompted people to bolster their own authority by blaming others for dangerous care. It has also prompted considerable blame directed at pregnant women themselves, and more recently we have seen similar patterns of blame in the United States.

Drawing on ethnographic research in Malawi both within and outside the formal health sectors, Wendland uses Lauren Berlant’s “slow death” and Richard Nixon’s “slow violence” to reconsider maternal death. Reproductive violence can be fast or slow, or fast and slow at the same time. To represent it as an acute crisis can be politically useful. That representation also risks drawing our attention away from the slow injuries that happen within health systems, between them, or outside them entirely.