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Rituals of Infant Death: Defining Life and Islamic Personhood

12 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2014  

Alison Shaw

University of Oxford

Date Written: February 2014


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 multiā€ethnic British society.

Keywords: personhood, pregnancy loss, stillbirth, British Pakistani Muslims

Suggested Citation

Shaw, Alison, Rituals of Infant Death: Defining Life and Islamic Personhood (February 2014). Bioethics, Vol. 28, Issue 2, pp. 84-95, 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2374532 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bioe.12047

Alison Shaw (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

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