Extracting Vitalities: Indigenous Women and Reproductive Health

In this presentation, I aim to address and demonstrate how territorial devastation and reproductive injustices are imbricated. Drawing upon long-term ethnographic studies carried out among Indigenous women from lowland South America, I take seriously the understanding of some interlocutors that their bodies are their territories, and their territories are their bodies. I then argue that the Anthropocene is embodied in Indigenous women's lives through an extractivism of vitalities. Non-consensual episiotomies, caesarian sections and forced sterilisation are, in some way, among the consequences of territorial damage that for centuries has made Indigenous technologies of care -- such as knowledge of plants and relationships with spirits and other-than-humans -- difficult, even impossible, for some collectives. Therefore, an increased medicalisation of women's life cycles has been accompanied by the extractivism, devastation and pollution of the Earth's flesh. I put into conversation what happens across scales: on the one hand, mining activities, deforestation, and water contamination; on the other, bodily compositions that are sometimes made stronger and sometimes weakened by biomedical colonial practices. The weak/strong and hot/cold pairs play an important role in Indigenous cosmopolitics and will drive the conceptualisation of the extracting and composing vitalities framework.

Departmental Seminar Series Hilary Term 2024

3.15pm, Fridays of Weeks 1-8. 

In person in the Lecture Room, 64 Banbury Road, and on Teams.

Convened by David Gellner and Rosalie Allain