Fieldwork in South Africa

The South Africa fieldwork will be carried out by Post Doc Fellow, Nanna Schneidermann and will investigate the role of new media in relation to cultural concerns around maternal health.

Becoming a mother is a serious health risk for girls and women in South Africa. In 2007, 625 mothers died per 100,000 live births, and this rate had almost doubled over less than a decade. This is further complicated by high rates of HIV infection and a history where poor, black and colored women’s reproductive and maternal health has been systematically discriminated in apartheid population control programs. Today new media offer expecting mothers a range of ways to find information and generate and share knowledge via apps, social media groups and various public health programs. One of the most prominent of these is MomConnect, the first national mHealth (mobile health) program in South Africa. It seeks to improve maternal health outcomes by registering women in a national database, sending SMSes to registered women with information about pregnancy and nursing, and by giving users a possibility to ask their own question and rate the health services they receive. Inspired by these kinds of public health interventions, the postdoc project sets out to investigate how motherhood and knowledge is linked in mobile phones, with vantage point in the everyday lives of the users and their families.

How is the information mediated in digital media situated and handled among other – perhaps competing or parallel - sources of knowledge and other ways of knowing and enquiring about maternal health? How does mHealth relate or disconnect with other kinds of care and belonging, among family members, among neighbors, at traditional or alternative healers, and in faith-based communities? How does media use in a wider sense play a role in individuals’ practices regarding their own health, the health of family and friends and health care systems? 

Anchored in six months for fieldwork among expecting mothers and their families in and around Cape Town, the study seeks to answer these questions, and thereby provide new insights into how links are made between mobile media practices and cultural concerns, and the changes these links may give rise to. 

The project is embedded in the MediAfrica project, hosted by Institute for International Studies and Interpreting at Oslo and Akershus University College for Applied Sciences, affiliated with Department of Anthropology at University of Cape Town and the research project The First Thousand Days


Researchers active in South Africa

Nanna Schneidermann
Post Doctoral Fellow
Head of research team, South Africa

Fiona Ross
Ph. D. social Antropology
University of Cape Town


Shari Thanjan                                

BA. (hons) Anthropology        Research Assistant                



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