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Keywords:

  • personhood;
  • pregnancy loss;
  • stillbirth;
  • British Pakistani Muslims

Abstract

This article is about the recognition of personhood when death occurs in early life. Drawing from anthropological perspectives on personhood at the beginnings and ends of life, it examines the implications of competing religious and customary definitions of personhood for a small sample of young British Pakistani Muslim women who experienced miscarriage and stillbirth. It suggests that these women's concerns about the lack of recognition given to the personhood of their fetus or baby constitute a challenge to customary practices surrounding burial as a Muslim. The article suggests that these women's concerns cannot be adequately glossed as a clash of Islamic belief versus Western medicine. Rather, they represent a renegotiation of Islamic opinion and customary practices within the broader context of changes in the medical and social norms surrounding pregnancy loss and infant death in multi-ethnic British society.