Niwan Chamel – “The Big Illness” Pregnancy Among Tojolabales Of Chiapas, Mexico
Master’s Report for the M.A. in Sociocultural Anthropology
Department of Anthropology, University of Arizona
Thesis advisor and qualifying exam chair: Mark A. Nichter
Namino Glantz, 2003

Problem
Excessive maternal mortality in Tojolabal (Mayan) populations in Chiapas, Mexico, despite proclamation of maternal health as a national public health priority.

Reported pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 live births, 2000

United States
10
Mexico
50
Chiapas
80
Tojolabal population
110

Objective
Harness medical anthropology to understand perceptions and experiences of pregnancy and childbirth among Tojolabales in Chiapas, Mexico to facilitate locally-initiated efforts promoting safe, voluntary motherhood via community-congruent intervention.

Theoretical Axes
Biomedical and anthropological synthesis in which pregnancy and birth are defined as cultural events resting on social relationships and cultural meanings, such that maternal morbidity and mortality cannot be adequately addressed without understanding and attending to both biomedical and context-dependent social and cultural components.

Methods
1. Review, organization, synthesis of maternal health data reaped from 1500+ pages of field notes generated
nnduring a three-year ethnographic study conducted by the Comitán Center for Health Research
2. Analysis and discussion of data in light of recent conceptual shifts in approaches to studying and
nnaddressing maternal mortality

Presentation of Findings
• Thematic summaries of local perceptions and experiences of: pregnancy, birth, after birth, value of children, infertility, miscarriage and abortion, assisting with births, being a daughter-in-law and having parents-in-law
• Narratives reconstructed from conversations and interviews contextualizing and illuminating lived
experiences
• Overview of conceptual shifts in maternal mortality focus in the Tojolabal context
• Medical anthropology-oriented insight into Tojolabal maternal mortality revolving around: secular change,
seasonality, meanings of place of care, social complications of pregnancy and conflict resolution, first
pregnancies and births, maternal morbidity, and understanding women’s own priorities

Institutional Support
• Comitán Center for Health Research www.cisc.org.mx
• National Science Foundation
• University of Arizona

Outline of Master's Report
(Download Glantz MA Outline.pdf)

Complete Master's Report
Available upon request. ContactNaminoGlantz