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Beyond SurgeryInjury, Healing, and Religion at an Ethiopian Hospital$
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Anita Hannig

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226457154

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226457321.001.0001

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Clinical Tracks: Moving through Surgery

Clinical Tracks: Moving through Surgery

(p.122) Four Clinical Tracks: Moving through Surgery
Beyond Surgery

Anita Hannig

University of Chicago Press

This chapter moves away from the history and symbolic efficacy of fistula surgery to focus on its clinical manifestations: the technical and social complications, the quotidian drama of medical work, and women’s experiences of these interventions. For many of them, surgery became an experience of a deeply religious kind. Patients articulated a clear relationship between divine will and therapeutic success, and they saw hospital doctors as privileged tools in the hands of God. Women tended to fold the event of surgery into their existing concerns with bodily wholeness, the strength of their social connections, and a properly pious disposition. Fistula surgery drew in a host of other systems of meaning that challenges received ideas about the detached, insulated nature of biomedical interventions. Tracing the clinical tracks of patients as they moved through treatment also allows us to glimpse the indeterminacy and uncertainty of surgical interventions for fistula: the confusion, speculation, and discomfort they occasioned, along with the circuitous treatment behavior they prompted. For many women with fistula, surgery turned out to be less of a finite, closed event than an open script that was constantly subject to being rewritten, casting doubt on the idea of surgery as a silver bullet.

Keywords:   surgery, obstetric fistula, biomedicine, therapy, uncertainty, religion, piety, Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, traditional medicine, chronicity

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