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Perils to Pregnancies:

On Social Sorrows and Strategies Surrounding Pregnancy Loss in Cameroon

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Abstract

This article explores the local perceptions and practices surrounding pregnancy loss in Cameroon—a topic that has long been neglected in international reproductive health debates. Based on extended periods of anthropological fieldwork in an urban and a rural setting in the East province of the country, it shows the inherent ambiguities that underlie pregnancies and their perceived dangers. By situating meanings of pregnancy loss within the complex dynamics of marriage and kinship, pregnant bodies are argued to be social bodies—the actions and interpretations of which shift along with social situations. This approach not only forms an alternative to the current focus on the body politic in global discourses on fertility risks but also shows how conventional assumptions such as the rigid distinction between voluntary and involuntary pregnancy loss distort ambiguous daily life realities for Cameroonian women whose pregnancies are not being carried to term.

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