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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Publication details for Dr Papreen Nahar

Nahar, P. & van der Geest, S. (2014). How Women in Bangladesh Confront the Stigma of Childlessness: Agency, Resilience, and Resistance. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 28(3): 381-398.

Author(s) from Durham


In a context where motherhood is an integral part of a woman's stereotype, being childless is a devastating experience. We explore how these so-called deviant women manage this situation. The objective of this article is to contribute to the debate regarding infertile women's agency, resilience, and resistance. This article is based on anthropological fieldwork among urban middle-class and rural poor women. Their life histories reveal that childless women in Bangladesh, a pro-natalist, patriarchal society, are not passive victims, but rather actively fight their stigmatization and manage to survive. The childless women follow overt and covert strategies to overcome their stigmatized identity and create space for themselves in various innovative ways. The women do not resist in a coordinated way as a group, but do so individually. Given the collective nature of a society like rural Bangladesh, we believe that the women's individual acts will eventually have collective effects.