Reproductive Health

Back to: Interactive View | Table View

View exercise overview

Overview
Exercise ID: 3.3
Class size: Any
Level: II
Source: Produced by HRAF


Learning Objectives

Does the exercise compare 2 or more cultures? Yes
Subject selection: Single subject specified by teacher
Subjects/OCMS, if applicable: Reproductive health
Region selection: open (student choice)
Region, if applicable: Various
Culture selection: Student chooses from entire collection
Cultures/OWCs, if applicable:
Samples:

Classroom Guide

Instructions for navigating eHRAF included? Yes
Assignments for students to complete in groups? No
Assignments for students to complete on their own? Yes
Instructions for Microfiche version? No
 

Christiane Cunnar, Human Relations Area Files

Imagine starting your first job as medical care worker with an international relief and health organization such as the Red Cross, WHO (World Health Organization), or the Peace Corps. Your job description lists that you will be involved in all aspects of medical care, including childbirth. You will be working in different continents. Since you will be exposed to different cultural belief systems and will be working in a medical domain involving traditional healing and childbirth practices, your employer expects you to learn about the culture’s belief system associated with reproductive health and medicine.

1. Stages in Reproduction

In the eHRAF World Cultures database the concepts of reproductive stages  are represented by OCM subjects. The OCM subjects are based on the Outline of Cultural Materials (OCM), which is a vast thesaurus that contains topics on all aspects of culture and social life including specific subjects on reproduction.

Using the eHRAF World Cultures database, compare and contrast the five reproductive stages that are listed below for three (or more) cultures that are available in eHRAF. Log on to http://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu  and click Advanced Search. Use the “Add Cultures” and “Add Subjects” functions to perform the search. (See picture below)

Reproductive Stages:

1. Menstruation
2. Conception
3. Pregnancy
4. Childbirth

Screenshot of an eHRAF Advanced Search with selected cultures and subjects associated with reproductive stages.

Screenshot of an eHRAF Advanced Search with selected cultures and subjects associated with reproductive stages.

 

 

See instructions for Advanced Search in eHRAF. Hint: Advanced Search > Add Subjects > OCM Code > 800-899 > 840 Reproduction

 2. Menstruation

2.1. General Ideas about Menstruation

Using the eHRAF World Cultures (http://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu) database, compare and contrast menstruation for five (or more) cultures from different major regions (e.g., Africa, Asia, South America, etc.). Which taboos are associated with menstruation? Is the menstruation period marked with special conditions? Do cultures in the same geographical regions have similar practices regarding menstruation? If not, how do they differ?

Hint: “Menstruation” is represented by an OCM subject and in an eHRAF Advanced Search can be selected by using the “Add Subjects” function.

2.2. Menstruation Taboos

Most cultures have some kind of “menstruation taboos” for girls and women. In many cultures a menstruating woman is considered “unclean” and taboos are imposed. Sarpong (1977) notes that among the Akan of Ghana, a woman or girl who has her menses may not enter male’s dwelling, must live in separate living and sleeping quarters, and may not cook food for adult males. In an ethnographic report on the Iroquois in the eastern United States, Shimony writes that “the general menstrual taboos arise out of the belief that women during the first three days of menstruation are ‘poisonous’ and ‘dangerous’ in contact with men, hunters, babies, pregnant women, medicines, and ritual items (Shimony, 1961:216).” Wilbert (1967) notes about the Warao, an indigenous people of Venezuela, that during her menses a woman must live and sleep in the “menstruation” hut. In many cultures violation of the menstruation taboo is punished with illness or death.

Using the eHRAF World Cultures (http://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu) database, compare and contrast “menstruation taboos” for five (or more) cultures from different major regions. Hint: Please note that “menstruation” and “taboo” are represented by OCM subjects.  In an eHRAF Advanced Search they can be selected by using the “Add Subjects” function.

2.3. Menstruation and Diet

Some cultures consider menstruation as a “medical condition.” The menstruating woman or girl is referred to as “patient” who must observe dietary restrictions during her menses. Edwin Meyer Loeb, in an ethnohistorical report of Pomo women, states that “the patient was forbidden the use of meat, bird, or fish. She was allowed to eat mussels, kelp, sea grass, acorn bread, and pinole (Loeb 1926).” Hugh-Jones (1979) reports that the Tukano, an indigenous people of South America associate “pepper” with menstruation and female sexuality.

Using the eHRAF World Cultures (http://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu) database, compare and contrast “menstruation” associated with “diet” for five (or more) cultures from different major regions. Please note that different search strategies exist for this type of search. Hint: Please note that “menstruation” and “diet” are represented by OCM subjects. In an eHRAF Advanced Search they can be selected by using the “Add Subjects” function.

3. Conception

3.1. General Ideas about Conception

Using the eHRAF World Cultures (http://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu) database, compare and contrast conception for five cultures (or more) from five different major regions. Which taboos are associated with conception? Do cultures in the same geographical regions have similar practices regarding conception? If not, how do they differ?

Hint: “Conception” is represented by an OCM subject and in an eHRAF Advanced Search it can be selected by using the “Add Subjects” function.

4. Pregnancy

4.1. General Ideas about Pregnancy

Using the eHRAF World Cultures (http://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu) database, compare and contrast pregnancy for five cultures from different major regions. Which taboos are associated with pregnancy? Is pregnancy marked with a special event or celebration? If so, what is name of the event? Do cultures in the same geographical regions have similar customs regarding pregnancy? If not, how do they differ?

Hint: “Pregnancy” is represented by an OCM subject and in an eHRAF Advanced Search it can be selected by using the “Add Subjects” function.

4.2. Pregnancy Taboos

Most cultures impose taboos or advise restrictions on pregnant women to protect the growing fetus. In the United States, expecting mothers are urged not to smoke cigarettes, or drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages. In some cultures, pregnant women may not attend funerals as the spirits surrounding the dead may harm the baby. In an ethnographic report on the Dogon in Africa, van Beek (1992) states that a pregnant woman may not sleep under the shade of a tree as the “shade” harbors dangerous spirits.

Using the eHRAF World Cultures (http://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu) database, compare and contrast “pregnancy taboos” for five (or more) cultures from different major regions. Hint: Please note that “pregnancy” and “taboo” are represented by OCM subjects. In an eHRAF Advanced Search they can be selected by using the “Add Subjects” function.

4.3. Pregnancy and Diet

As new life grows in the womb, an expecting mother is often encouraged to eat certain foods. During pregnancy some women also “crave” certain sweet and salty foods such as ice cream or pickles. Hanks (1963) reports that the Central Thai specify that “safe” foods for a pregnant woman are foods such as rice, bananas, and coconuts, but chili peppers are considered unsafe as they burn the baby’s skin.

Using the eHRAF World Cultures (http://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu) database, compare and contrast “pregnancy and dietary restrictions” for five cultures (or more) from different major regions. Hint: Please note that “pregnancy” and “diet” are represented by OCM subjects. In an eHRAF Advanced Search they can be selected by using the “Add Subjects” function.

References Cited

Hanks, Jane Richardson
1963 Maternity and its ritual in Bang Chan. Ithaca: Cornell University, Department of Asian Studies, Southeast Asia Program. As seen in the eHRAF Collection of Ethnography on the Web, 4/15/02.

Hugh-Jones, Christine
1979 From the Milk River: spatial and temporal processes in northwest Amazonia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. As seen in the eHRAF Collection of Ethnography on the Web, 4/15/02.

Loeb, Edwin Meyer
1926 Pomo folkways. Berkeley: University of California Press. As seen in the eHRAF Collection of Ethnography on the Web, 4/15/02.

Sarpong, Peter
1977 Girls’ nubility rites on Ashanti. Tema:Ghana Publishing Corporation. As seen in the eHRAF Collection of Ethnography on the Web, 4/15/02.

Shimony, Annemarie
1961 Conservatism among the Iroquois at the Six Nations Reserve. New Haven: Department of Anthropology, Yale University. As seen in the eHRAF Collection of Ethnography on the Web, 4/15/02.

Wilbert, Johannes
1967 Secular and sacred functions of the fire among the Warao. Caracas: La Sociedad. As seen in the eHRAF Collection of Ethnography on the Web, 4/15/02.

Wilbert, Johannes
1972 The fishermen: the Warao of the Orinoco Delta. New York: Praeger Publishers. As seen in the eHRAF Collection of Ethnography on the Web, 4/15/02.

Van Beek, W. E. A.
1992 Becoming human in Dogon, Mali. Goteborg: Institute for Advanced Studies in Social Anthropology, University of Gothenburg. As seen in the eHRAF Collection of Ethnography on the Web, 4/15/02.

 

Use the eHRAF World Cultures (http:/ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu) database and OCM subjects (found in the “Add Subjects” function of the Advanced Search) to study the various reproductive health systems. The following exercises show you how to find information ranging from menstruation to pregnancy to childbirth to postnatal care to abortion and infanticide in HRAF’s online ethnographic database, eHRAF World Cultures.

Please note that eHRAF may contain documents over a wide range of time periods. If you encounter documents written more than 50 years ago, discuss how political-economic (e.g., globalization, introduction of market economy and democracy) and other forces may have affected the reproductive health system (e.g., childbirth at the clinic versus at home).

eHRAF User Guide

A list of all searchable OCM subjects can be found at the Outline of Cultural Materials thesaurus. The eHRAF User Guides contains very helpful tips and search examples on how to search in eHRAF.  If you have questions about searching in the databases, don’t hesitate to contact us at hraf@yale.edu, 1-203-764-9401 or 1-800-520-HRAF.