Stone Center alum Alejandra Marks (MA '17) was awarded a Wenner Gren dissertation grant for her multi-sited research on abortion activism and reproductive care in Havana, Cuba and Salvador, Brazil. Marks is a current PhD candidate in Tulane's Anthropology department.
Her medical anthropology project seeks to understand the ways in which abortion pills, as a globalizing technology, make abortion a more autonomous and private act. Marks studies the local notions of reproductive health care in Cuba—where abortion is legal—and Brazil—where abortion is illegal.
Marks reports, "Pharmaceuticals have been theorized as symbolically “potent” objects (Martin 2006) whose capacity to affect consumers extends well beyond their immediate chemical effects. This research investigates how the drug misoprostol, originally developed as a treatment for gastric ulcers, is changing the meaning of abortion by allowing women to terminate unwanted pregnancies privately. Emerging first as an informal abortion method in the 1990s in Brazil, where abortion is penalized, the drug first entered clinical life in Latin America as an abortifacient when it was officially adopted for this purpose in Cuba in 1997. Today, the different modes through which misoprostol is distributed in the two countries cast abortion as a practice that sits uneasily between crime and care, between marginal practice and sanctioned procedure. I will conduct six months of fieldwork in Havana and six months in Salvador da Bahia to trace the ways in which the misoprostol is reshaping notions of reproductive care. By examining the imaginative, affective, and embodied experiences of women as they turn to either to clinicians or unlicensed sellers to obtain misoprostol, I seek to understand how the experience and meaning of abortion - increasingly carried out in the private sphere - is shifting."
In September, the North American Congress on Latin America published an article by Marks specifically on Brazil's restrictive reproductive health landscape, and its accompanying networks of abortion activists. Read the full article here.
Image provided by Alejandra Marks.