Sociality, matter, and the imagination: re-creating Anthropology, 18-21 September 2018


Man performing the ‘Sky Dancing Rope Game’ or Chakhen Tagshur, ‘Sliding down the rope like a bird’, as part of the New Year ceremonies at the Potala Palace, Lhasa, Tibet, 13th February 1937. Photographer: Dasang Damdul Tsarong from the collection of Frederick Spencer Chapman at the Pitt Rivers Museum. Location and Date: Lhasa, Tibet, 1937. Copyright Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford (1998.131.541)


A couple of weeks ago, our team member Karolina Kuberska attended the annual Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth (ASA) conference. This year, the conference was held in the beautiful city of Oxford.


The theme of the conference focused on the meaning of imagination in the way people order their social worlds and how that impacts the way anthropology is understood as a discipline. With 740 academics attending, with 82 panels and 13 labs spanning all four fields and beyond the discipline, it has been the largest ASA conference to-date.

Karolina presented in a panel “The creative birthing body” run by Cassandra Yuill and Maria Paula Prates. Karolina presented a paper entitled “My son was born sleeping”: giving birth to death as a valuable experience that looked at the way in which sometimes the narratives of labour constitute a cherished, important part of the stillborn baby’s biography. You can read the abstract of the paper below:

Stillbirths and late miscarriages are slowly attracting increasing attention of the British media and the politicians, and the general public as the result, however, they are largely framed through the extreme grief and mental health issues that accompany them. Many people find it surprising that a fetus/baby diagnosed with IUD, intrauterine death, has to be birthed. Even more are shocked to find out that vaginal labour, rather than caesarean sections, is encouraged by medical professionals. As bereavement care following pregnancy loss focuses on giving parents a sense of control and acknowledging the baby, the undeniability of childbirth fits this framework well. In this paper I would like to explore experiences of women whose childbirth resulted in anticipated late miscarriage or stillbirth. Although these birth experiences do not lead to live, healthy babies, they are crucial in the women’s narratives of the relationship with the baby, validating these women’s sense of motherhood and making the baby’s existence more tangible to others. Using interviews with women in England who have experiences stillbirth or late miscarriage, I would like to explore the significance they attach to the labour process, including physical pain and temporality, in the construction of familial bonds with their babies.

The paper was well received and Karolina was asked many interesting questions.



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