Public Defence: Seydou Drabo

Mphil Seydou Drabo at Institute of Health and Society will be defending the thesis “The social life of reproductive health commodities in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso: an ethnographic study” for the degree of PhD (Philosophiae Doctor).

Image may contain: Camouflage, Smile, Military camouflage, Military uniform, Military person.

Photo: private

Due to copyright reasons, an electronic copy of the thesis must be ordered from the faculty. In order for the faculty to have time to process the order, it must be received by the faculty no later than 2 days prior to the public defence. Orders received later than 2 days before the defence will not be processed. Inquiries regarding the thesis after the public defence must be addressed to the candidate.

Trial Lecture – time and place

See Trial Lecture.

Adjudication committee

  • First opponent: Assistant Professor Siri Suh, Brandeis University, US
  • Second opponent: Senior Researcher Karine Aasgaard Jansen, Chr Michelsen Institute
  • Third member and chair of the evaluation committee: Associate Professor Kåre Moen, University of Oslo

Chair of the Defence

Professor Per Ole Iversen, University of Oslo

Principal Supervisor

Associate Professor Katerini T. Storeng, University of Oslo


In recent years, there has been a growing focus globally on the importance of essential reproductive health commodities. This includes drugs and supplies for safe motherhood, contraceptives to control fertility and drugs like misoprostol, that have been hailed as a revolution for making abortion safer and reducing deaths from abortion complications.

In contrast to public health approaches that frame such commodities as technological means to achieve demographic and maternal health outcomes, this thesis draws on medical anthropology and science and technology studies to explore how reproductive health commodities acquire different meanings and purposes as they circulate in society.

The thesis is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Burkina Faso in West Africa, where contraceptives and misoprostol play important roles in efforts to address unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortion. The fieldwork included participant observation; in-depth interviews with women of reproductive age, healthcare workers and informal drug vendors; and review of documents about national and international reproductive health governance.

Across three peer-reviewed publications, the thesis analyses the ‘social life’ of contraceptives at the intersection of formal and informal systems of reproductive health care, showing that healthcare workers and street drug vendors engage in ‘pharmaceutical diversion’ in disseminating misoprostol and knowledge about it to networks of individuals outside of the drug’s formal, regulated circuits. Meanwhile, women ‘domesticate’ reproductive health commodities to create new uses for them, whether using misoprostol as an emergency contraceptive or to induce abortion clandestinely, or using hormonal contraceptives to achieve social, romantic, or bodily aesthetic goals. Though reproductive health commodities help women exercise agency over reproduction, negotiating access to them also exposes women to violence and creates new forms of inequalities.

Additional information

Contact the research support staff.

Published May 27, 2022 12:25 PM - Last modified June 10, 2022 12:17 PM