Menstrual materiality: Anthropological mappings from menstrual taboos to the femcare industry

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A Companion to the Anthropology of Reproductive Medicine and Technology


Menstruation, a physiological process that affects approximately half the world's population for the duration of their reproductive years, has received limited attention from both the social and clinical sciences. In this chapter the author highlights the work anthropologists have done to reframe conceptualizations of menstruation and consider cultural distinctions in the symbolisms, meanings, and practices surrounding this bodily process. She explores the connections between material experiences of menstruation and the propagation of menstrual stigma by the conventional FemCare industry. Here, the author shows how menstrual stigma is utilized to promote capitalist gains at the expense of menstruators, their health, and the environment. Until the second half of the twentieth century, menstruation was primarily theorized within anthropology through two interconnected frameworks: symbolic contamination (or pollution) and cultural understandings of taboo. A more nuanced approach to taboos of talking about menstruation has also helped anthropologists explore the dynamism of taboos.

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