Ep # 92 Emergency Contraceptives & Hymenoplasty: Lisa Wynn on Sexual & Reproductive Health Tech

This podcast contains themes or topics that may be distressing or graphic for some listeners. Listener discretion is advised.

Lisa L. Wynn is Professor in the School of Social Sciences (Discipline of Anthropology) at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.  She received her PhD in 2003 from Princeton University’s Anthropology Department, then subsequently held two postdoctoral research positions at Princeton’s Office of Population Research and Center for Health and Wellbeing.  Her research has been supported by grants from the Social Science Research Council, the Australian government’s Office of Learning and Teaching, and the Australian Research Council, and she has won both the Vice Chancellor’s Teaching Excellence Award from Macquarie University and a national teaching award from the Australian Office of Learning and Teaching.  She has conducted fieldwork in Egypt since 1998, with a focus on tourism, gender, reproductive health technologies, sexuality, and religion. She also conducts research in Australia on ethics review bureaucracies and on lay understandings of infectious disease.  She has served on the editorial boards of Maternal and Child Health Journal and Contraception, and is Associate Editor of the journal American Ethnologist starting in 2022. She has served as President of the Australian Anthropological Society (2020) and on the AAS Executive Committee (2018-2021). She is the author of 2 monographs, the co-editor of 3 edited books, and has published several dozen book chapters and journal articles.

Today we talked about Lisa’s research on sexual and reproductive health technologies in the United States as well as in the Middle East and North Africa. We focused on emergency contraceptives and unpacked the arguments both for and against making them available over the counter in America. Lisa took a deep dive into how the activism for expanded access to emergency contraceptives has created a hierarchy of deservedness that prioritises specific groups above others, diverting public attention away from the universal human rights discourse. 

We then turned to Egypt where Lisa has done long-term ethnographic fieldwork on sexuality and dived into a particular sexual technology – hymenoplasty, or hymen-reconstruction procedures. Lisa shared with us a fascinating story of how people used it as a tactic to circumvent or subvert cultural norms and build social respectability. We also touched on the unexpectedly diverging opinions on hymenoplasty from religious authorities, doctors, and laypeople. 

Links and Citations 

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This anthropology podcast is supported by the Australian Anthropological Society, the ANU’s College of Asia and the Pacific and College of Arts and Social Sciences, and the Australian Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, and is produced in collaboration with the American Anthropological Association.

Music by Pete Dabro: dabro1.bandcamp.com
Shownotes by Matthew Phung
Podcast edited by Clair Bizhao and Matthew Phung

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