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Capitals diminished, denied, mustered and deployed. A qualitative longitudinal study of women's four year trajectories after acute health crisis, Burkina Faso


  • Murray, Susan F.
  • Akoum, Mélanie S.
  • Storeng, Katerini T.


Accumulating evidence indicates that health crises can play a key role in precipitating or exacerbating poverty. For women of reproductive age in low-income countries, the complications of pregnancy are a common cause of acute health crisis, yet investigation of longer-term dynamics set in motion by such events, and their interactions with other aspects of social life, is rare. This article presents findings from longitudinal qualitative research conducted in Burkina Faso over 2004–2010. Guided by an analytic focus on patterns of continuity and change, and drawing on recent discussions on the notion of ‘resilience’, and the concepts of ‘social capital’ and ‘bodily capital’, we explore the trajectories of 16 women in the aftermath of costly acute healthcare episodes. The synthesis of case studies shows that, in conditions of structural inequity and great insecurity, an individual's social capital ebbs and flow over time, resulting in a trajectory of multiple adaptations. Women's capacity to harness or exploit bodily capital in its various forms (beauty, youthfulness, physical strength, fertility) to some extent determines their ability to confront and overcome adversities. With this, they are able to further mobilise social capital without incurring excessive debt, or to access and accumulate significant new social capital. Temporary self-displacement, often to the parental home, is also used as a weapon of negotiation in intra-household conflict and to remind others of the value of one's productive and domestic labour. Conversely, diminished bodily capital due to the physiological impact of an obstetric event or its complications can lead to reduced opportunities, and to further disadvantage.

Suggested Citation

  • Murray, Susan F. & Akoum, Mélanie S. & Storeng, Katerini T., 2012. "Capitals diminished, denied, mustered and deployed. A qualitative longitudinal study of women's four year trajectories after acute health crisis, Burkina Faso," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(12), pages 2455-2462.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:75:y:2012:i:12:p:2455-2462
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.09.025

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Storeng, Katerini Tagmatarchi & Murray, Susan F. & Akoum, Mélanie S. & Ouattara, Fatoumata & Filippi, Véronique, 2010. "Beyond body counts: A qualitative study of lives and loss in Burkina Faso after 'near-miss' obstetric complications," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 71(10), pages 1749-1756, November.
    2. Abel, Thomas & Frohlich, Katherine L., 2012. "Capitals and capabilities: Linking structure and agency to reduce health inequalities," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(2), pages 236-244.
    3. Cleaver, Frances, 2005. "The inequality of social capital and the reproduction of chronic poverty," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 33(6), pages 893-906, June.
    4. Storeng, Katerini Tagmatarchi & Baggaley, Rebecca F. & Ganaba, Rasmané & Ouattara, Fatoumata & Akoum, Mélanie S. & Filippi, Véronique, 2008. "Paying the price: The cost and consequences of emergency obstetric care in Burkina Faso," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 545-557, February.
    5. Russell, Steven & Gilson, Lucy, 2006. "Are health services protecting the livelihoods of the urban poor in Sri Lanka? Findings from two low-income areas of Colombo," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 63(7), pages 1732-1744, October.
    6. Narayan, Deepa & Pritchett, Lant, 1999. "Cents and Sociability: Household Income and Social Capital in Rural Tanzania," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(4), pages 871-897, July.
    7. Sauerborn, R. & Adams, A. & Hien, M., 1996. "Household strategies to cope with the economic costs of illness," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 291-301, August.
    8. Silvey, Rachel & Elmhirst, Rebecca, 2003. "Engendering Social Capital: Women Workers and Rural-Urban Networks in Indonesia's Crisis," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 865-879, May.
    9. Chapman, Rachel R., 2003. "Endangering safe motherhood in Mozambique: prenatal care as pregnancy risk," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 355-374, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Agampodi, Thilini Chanchala & Agampodi, Suneth Buddhika & Glozier, Nicholas & Siribaddana, Sisira, 2015. "Measurement of social capital in relation to health in low and middle income countries (LMIC): A systematic review," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 95-104.


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