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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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Healing and Reforming: The Making of the Modern Clinical Subject

Healing and Reforming: The Making of the Modern Clinical Subject

(p.149) Five Healing and Reforming: The Making of the Modern Clinical Subject
Beyond Surgery

Anita Hannig

University of Chicago Press

This chapter investigates the role of the fistula hospital as a place of both healing and reform. It details the ways that treatment for fistula was—and always has been—larger than the surgical repair that stood at its center. Women’s hospital stays became projects in moral education and social transformation that sought to remake whole persons—as opposed to discrete, medical bodies—according to particular models of hygienic civility, feminine domesticity, and Christian virtue. Inside the hospital classroom, fistula patients learned how to read and count, optimize their hygiene, and relinquish their “traditional” practices. Moreover, the iconic fistula narrative reemerged in the classroom, leading to profoundly paradoxical outcomes. The hospital’s desire to reform patients drew at least some of its force from prevailing concerns in Ethiopia with what it means to be an enlightened, urban subject. Rural practices came under intense scrutiny in the classroom, and patients bore the responsibility for becoming disciples of change on their return to their home communities. When patients arrived at the fistula center in search of healing, they had to submit themselves to a more encompassing project of moral and social uplift, showcasing the extramedical work in which biomedical institutions frequently engage.

Keywords:   healing, education, reform, cultural pathology, Christianity, tradition, modernity, urban, hygiene, institutions, rural

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