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Med Anthropol. 2004 Jul-Sep;23(3):229-61.

A nova vida: the commoditization of reproduction in Central Mozambique.

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Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.


In Central Mozambique economic austerity and shifts in domestic organization have transformed kinship and gender relations in ways that reinforce reproductive demands on women. Against this backdrop of economic and social restructuring, commodification of long-standing reproductive practices has intensified. This paper examines the influence of commodification and female economic marginalization on virginity reviews, seduction fees, bride wealth payments, and childbirth assistance. Constructions of reproductive risk as human or spirit-induced threats of witchcraft, sorcery, or spirit possession resonate in this atmosphere of competition and instability. Rather than disappearing, occult practices may be increasing in response to the new inequalities associated with "modernity." This pressure contributes to women's reproductive vulnerability and informs new strategies to manage risk during pregnancy. Life history and pregnancy case study data reveal how women facing growing inequality and increasing danger to reproductive health mobilize cultural resources in ways that, paradoxically, both reinforce and contest dominant relations of reproduction.

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