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Annual Kassen Lecture featuring Dr. Claire Wendland

Posted on September 26, 2016


Each year the Department of Anthropology presents the Kassen Lecture, featuring a top female scholar in the social sciences to present a lecture to the department and to the campus community.


The Kassen Lecture for 2016 will feature


Dr. Claire Wendland

Professor, Departments of Anthropology, Obstetrics & Gynecology, and Medical History and Bioethics, University of Wisconsin-Madison


“Dangerous Care: Reproductive Violence, Fast and Slow”


October 13, 2016 from 4:15 to 5:30

reception to follow


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. 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, Dr. Wendland uses Berlant’s “slow death” and 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. 



As a medical anthropologist, Dr. Wendland focuses on the globalization of biomedicine, particularly in Africa. Related work includes the anthropology of reproduction, sexuality and the body. Dr. Wendland’s first book, A Heart for the Work: Journeys through an African Medical School, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2010. That book explores the experiences of medical students learning to be doctors in Malawi, and argues that their responses challenge several longstanding assumptions about biomedicine and about African healing. Dr. Wendland’s current research project looks at changing concepts and loci of risk in childbirth in southeast Africa, in a setting in which very high maternal mortality rates force professionals and lay people alike to develop explanations for the link between birth and death. Dr. Wendland seeks to understand how the narratives of maternal death they produce reflect experiences of a rapidly changing social, economic, and biomedical context.

Generously supported by an annuity from the late Drs. Aileen and Julian Kassen.

Click here for a flyer (.pdf)

Page last modified: February 9, 2017