Equations, Epistemologies and Effects: Reconsidering a Critical Maternal Health Indicator
Thursday, February 13
12:30 PM, 8411 Social Science
Public health indicators—rates, ratios, and percentages—quantify the qualitative experience of human life. These indicators are products of disciplinary commitments and productive of disciplinary effects. Unlike people, they can be tracked, graphed, compared across time and space, converted to dollars, inserted into equations, and statistically manipulated. Yet their political weight rests upon their claim to represent (in aggregate) actual people. This paper examines the explanatory functions and lapses of the maternal mortality ratio (the most commonly used maternal health indicator), drawing from research on maternal death in southeastern Africa.
Claire Wendland is Associate Professor of Anthropology, Obstetrics & Gynecology and Medical History and Bioethics at UW-Madison.