Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2015

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Niger is considered the poorest country in the world and has the world’s highest total fertility rate. This confluence of extreme poverty and pronatalism (in principle and in practice) situates Niger as a prime site for exploring maternal morbidities, particularly experiences of obstetric fistula, a birthing injury caused by prolonged obstructed labor that results in chronic incontinence of urine and/or feces. This fieldwork was carried out over the course of one year (in addition to two summers) at four fistula centers with one hundred women with fistula as well as thirty-eight family members, husbands, and fistula professionals. In this dissertation I complicate concepts of stigma often tied to the condition, tease out notions of surgical success, explore unintended consequences of humanitarian intervention, and examine how fistula fits into local notions of the body and local structures of caretaking and support in times of illness. This research focuses on how women with fistula experience their condition and treatment seeking and how both their experiences with fistula and their quest for normalcy reconfigure their social and marital lives and their identities of self.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Shanti Parikh

Committee Members

Glenn Stone, Leonard Lewis Wall, Rebecca Lester, Bret Gustafson, Jean Allman, Paul Stoller


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