On Halloween, Anita Hannig is quoted in this Washington Post article on how a genuine engagement with death and mortality has all but disappeared from our modern iteration of this holiday.
Anita Hannig and George Paul Meiu will be discussing their new books at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on November 2nd from 7-8pm. Free to the public. More info can be found here.
“Back in February, on a chilly, windy afternoon in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a group of college students and I stood face-to-face with three ash-covered cremation furnaces at Mount Auburn Cemetery, the oldest garden cemetery in the United States. As we squeezed into the crematory, one of the students asked Joe—the no-nonsense custodian—whether we could peek inside one of the furnaces. ‘Not right now,’ Joe said, shaking his head. ‘There’s someone in there.'”
Anita Hannig’s first book, Beyond Surgery: Injury, Healing, and Religion at an Ethiopian Hospital (University of Chicago Press, 2017) is an in-depth ethnography of two fistula repair and rehabilitation centers in northern Ethiopia. Focusing on the juxtaposition of culture, religion, and medicine, Hannig turns the heroic narrative of surgery on its head to expose the realities of life for women treated in these centers. Utilizing first-person interviews, she shows the human face to surgery and its aftermath. Moving beyond the easy and cathartic narrative promulgated by the media and non-profit fundraisers, Hannig shows the complex reality of life post-surgery. Hannig’s book is a testament to the importance of good, long-term research in the arena of global public health.
Listen to the full New Books Network interview here.
How do academics write for a variety of audiences? Is routine a necessary part of creating? How many times will Ryan mention Stephen King? In this episode of This Anthro Life, Adam and Ryan talk with Anita Hannig of Brandeis University about the writing process behind her new book, Beyond Surgery: Injury, Healing, and Religion at an Ethiopian Hospital. While they are looking at writing as a craft from the perspective of anthropologists, Ryan, Adam, and Anita draw on a variety of perspectives outside the discipline to suggest some tips for writing routine, reaching a broad audience, and writing ethnography.
Over the past few decades, maternal childbirth injuries have become a potent symbol of Western biomedical intervention in Africa, affecting over one million women across the global south. Western-funded hospitals have sprung up, offering surgical sutures that ostensibly allow women who suffer from obstetric fistula to return to their communities in full health. Journalists, NGO staff, celebrities, and some physicians have crafted a stock narrative around this injury, depicting afflicted women as victims of a backward culture who have their fortunes dramatically reversed by Western aid. With Beyond Surgery, medical anthropologist Anita Hannig unsettles this picture for the first time and reveals the complicated truth behind the idea of biomedical intervention as quick-fix salvation.
Through her in-depth ethnography of two repair and rehabilitation centers operating in Ethiopia, Hannig takes the reader deep into a world inside hospital walls, where women recount stories of loss and belonging, shame and delight. As she chronicles the lived experiences of fistula patients in clinical treatment, Hannig explores the danger of labeling “culture” the culprit, showing how this common argument ignores the larger problem of insufficient medical access in rural Africa. Beyond Surgery portrays the complex social outcomes of surgery in an effort to deepen our understanding of medical missions in Africa, expose cultural biases, and clear the path toward more effective ways of delivering care to those who need it most.
Winner of the 2018 Eileen Basker Memorial Prize, Society for Medical Anthropology, American Anthropological Association.