Hanneke Pot: INGO Behavior Change Projects: Culturalism and Teenage Pregnancies in Malawi
In Medical Anthropology, 2019.
Adolescent girls are at the center of many health development interventions. Based on ethnographic research in rural Malawi, I analyze the design, implementation, and reception of an international non-government organization’s project aiming to reduce teenage pregnancies by keeping girls in school. Drawing on Fassin’s theorization of culturalism as ideology, I analyze how a tendency to overemphasize culture is inherent to the project’s behavior change approach, but is reinforced locally by class-shaped notions of development, and plays out through reinforcing ethnic stereotypes. I argue that culturalism builds upon previous health development initiatives that dichotomized modernity and tradition, and is strengthened by short-term donor funding.
Malawi, behavioral change, culturalism, harmful cultural practices, teenage pregnancies