ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Obstetric experience of indigenous woman in institutionalized spaces: A case study of Paroja women in Koraput, Odisha.


Bhal Deekshya - Universität Heidelberg, Anthropolgy, Heidelberg, Germany


37 – Violent births and deaths: coping with challenging life experiences in South Asia


According to the NFHS-5, institutional births in India have increased exponentially such that 89% of all births now occur in institutionalised bio-medical facilities. With state’s public health interventions and deployment of ground level healthcare workers- my field was no different in terms of its maternal health outcomes. Proportionally, publications on increasing instances of violence and abuse in such spaces continue to fill pages of both academic journals and media outlets. A parallel thread of cultural practices revolving around childbirth- from conception to postpartum- focuses on protecting the woman’s health not just from a physical but also magical vulnerabilities. All these rituals and practices- both biomedical and traditional- make birth not only a personal experience but also a social experience.

Viewed against this backdrop, my ethnographic research explores the changing nuances of birthing realities for Paroja women and superimpose their narratives on existing literature dealing with violent births. The central theme of the paper investigates what happens when a pregnant indigenous female body enters the biomedical and institutionalised space for the purpose of giving birth. Methodologically, I aim to go beyond the political economy of birth politics in India.