Mayra Sumter

PhD student, Social Anthropology
 Mayra Sumter


PhD project: Medical pluralism and reproductive healthcare in Suriname

The global maternal mortality rates emphasise the importance of biomedical healthcare systems. Governments and both international and national healthcare services all address the efficacy of biomedicine over alternative medicine. This dominant approach contradicts the very spirit of pluralistic healthcare, which brings attention to the coexistence of different medical services and their efficacy in human society and does so by treating all types of medical knowledge as equal. 

This research aims to understand this ambiguity in pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care. What are the choices expectant families make in combining biomedical and alternative healthcare services? In doing so, Mayra will try to find out how medicalisation of childbirth has influenced the use of these plural medical healthcare services. 

This project also seeks to build a mutual understanding and integration between biomedical and alternative medical healthcare, with an attempt to not only record and compare but also understand this unique combination of medical possibilities and their meaning for patients, healers, midwives and medical practitioners. This will entail investigating the first phase of the healthcare choices of pregnant women, which range from therapeutic efficacy in use of food, objects and medicinal plants to rituals involving mother and child taking herbal baths. Since pregnant women in Suriname use a mixture of gynaecological & obstetric care with traditional midwifery, Mayra will work with both pregnant women and those who have recently given birth to understand their choices for childbirth. 

Mayra's research will contribute to a better understanding of the plurality in medical anthropology regarding childbirth and facilitate an ongoing process to include alternative medical healthcare into the national healthcare system in Suriname.


Dr Anna Waldstein
Professor Dimitrios Theodossopoulos


Self-funded with GCRF Fortuity Fund

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