Masters In Sociocultural Anthropology

Ph.D. | B.A. | Chiapas and Mexico Map

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


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

United States10
Tojolabal population110
Reported pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 live births, 2000


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.


  1. Review, organization, synthesis of maternal health data reaped from 1500+ pages of field notes generated during 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

Presentations of Findings

  • Themantic 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
  • National Science Foundation
  • University of Arizona

Outline of Master’s Report

Glantz MA Outline

Complete Master’s Report

Available upon request: Contact Namino Glantz

Ph.D. | B.A. | Chiapas and Mexico Map