Participation in Social Health Protection: Women’s Engagement in Tanzania

The aim of the PhD project is to gain insights into the practice of participation in the emergent field of social health protection in Tanzania. The focus lies on everyday engagement of women in the Kilombero Valley to protect their own and their family's health, as well as to improve their life condition. The overall research question of the broader research project is: “How do people produce social health protection at the interface of induced and organic participation to improve their health and livelihood?”

Participation has become a powerful concept of global development in the past decades and is therefore increasingly on the agenda of political programs, projects of international organizations and NGOs. But what type of participation is this? On an analytical level we can distinguish between induced participation (i.e. through donor, government and policy directed processes) and forms of organic participation (i.e. on people's own initiative). The narrow focus on efforts of induced participation in development agendas bears the danger of obscuring and undermining people’s omnipresent but less visible strife for social participation in family, kin networks and self-organized groups to improve their health and livelihood. What seems to be missing is a concern for the ordinary, the everyday practice of the people and a more differentiated approach related to the concept of participation. The project thus aims at demonstrating that participation in diverse forms of social health protection can be conceived as a social practice which configures and is reconfigured by broader societal and material orders.

The field research for the present subproject will be conducted in Ifakara, a small town in the Kilombero Valley in the Morogoro Region in Tanzania. Through an in-depth ethnographic field research (drawing on the classic repertoire of anthropological methods) the project will explore understudied aspects in current research on induced and organic participation in social health protection and thus contribute to transforming current development perspectives on social and societal change. The PhD project will thereby contribute to the newly evolving anthropology of insurance as well as to the growing research interest in an anthropology of the good through its emphasis on the ways in which people engage with each other to make a 'better life'.

Keywords: Health, Participation, Agency, Gender, Social Health Protection, Anthropology of Insurance, Tanzania

Supervisor:Brigit Obrist

Co-Supervisor:Elisio Macamo


Melina Rutishauser is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Basel, Switzerland. Her PhD project is focusing on participation of women in the emergent field of social health protection. This ethnographic research project is part of the broader project “Participation in Social Health Protection: An Anthropological Case Study in Tanzania”, led by Prof. Dr. Brigit Obrist. In April 2016 she received a start-up scholarship of the Graduate School of Social Sciences (G3S) of the Department of Social Sciences from the University of Basel and is since then a member of the G3S. Melina studied Media Studies and Social Anthropology (B.A., Universities of Basel and Lausanne), as well as Sociology and Social Anthropology (M.A., University of Basel). From 2013 to June 2015 Melina was living in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), where she completed a master of advanced studies (MAS) in photography at the University Candido Mendes. Furthermore, she organized and coordinated two collective photography expositions during her stay in Rio de Janerio.

Melina Rutishauser
Ethnologisches Seminar
Münsterplatz 19
4051 Basel

Tel: +41 61 207 27 38