The meanings of sobreparto : postpartum illness and embodiment of emotions among Andean migrants in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia
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This thesis concerns a postpartum condition known as sobreparto among female Andean migrants in the lowland city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. While sobreparto is a traditionally Andean illness, its occurrence in the lowland city of Santa Cruz opens up new dimensions of analysis. In addition to exposing transformations of the traditional understandings of health, illness, and the body, the study of this phenomenon in an atypical setting sheds new light on issues such as migration, social networks, biomedicalisation, or gender patterns. By means of narratives of lives interrupted by sobreparto, it is possible to locate this condition within a wider frame of life trajectories, exposing motifs beyond the temporarily dysfunctional body. I argue that the narratives of sobreparto can be used as a springboard for a study of transformations in the understandings of motherhood and womanhood, migration and social networks, as well as emotions. Looking at these processes through the lens of a postpartum illness also reveals the connections between the ill body, the troubled mind, and imperfect social relationships. On the one hand, sobreparto can be analysed at the micro-level – in terms of an understanding of the body, individual reproductive histories, or the availability of other people’s support. On the other hand, sobreparto constitutes a commentary on phenomena occurring at the macro-level, such as large-scale internal migration in Bolivia or the increasing domination of biomedicine as a model of health and illness. The city of Santa Cruz offers a unique setting for scrutinising these changes using a traditionally Andean postpartum illness as a point of departure. Being much more than a postpartum bodily dysfunction, sobreparto, therefore, can be used as a lens through which it is possible to see the interplay of social and political macro- and micro-processes in people’s lives at the time of reproduction.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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