Islam and immunization in northern Nigeria

Seminar date: 
06 March 2008
Speaker(s): Elisha P. Renne

Elisha P. Renne is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on medical anthropology; gender relations; and religion and textiles in Nigeria. Her publications include Population and Progress in a Yoruba Town (Edinburgh University Press/University of Michigan Press) and Regulating Menstruation: Beliefs, Practices, Interpretations (University of Chicago Press) which she co-edited with E. van de Walle; as well as journal articles in Africa, American Anthropologist, Curare, Ethnology, Health Transition Review, JRAI, Reproductive Health Matters, Social Science & Medicine and Studies in Family Planning. She is presently preparing a manuscript on the polio eradication initiative in northern Nigeria.

Discussant: Stuart Blume, Professor at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences of the University of Amsterdam

While routine immunization and receiving the oral polio vaccine are acceptable practices for many Muslim parents in northern Nigeria, for some, immunization is seen as unnecessary or even possibly dangerous for infants and children who are in good health. This seminar focuses on the association of Islam with resistance to routine immunization and to the Polio Eradication Initiative. It considers current interpretations of immunization that reflect the historical context of Islamic medicine in Hausa society. Interviews and archival documents from Zaria, Kaduna, and Kano also suggest that present-day resistance to immunization continues earlier responses to colonial immunization campaigns. However, the reception of the Polio Eradication Initiative, which began at a time of considerable political insecurity for northern Nigerians, reflects a sense of an increasing threat to the Muslim community. Suspicion about the focus on polio immunization is one manifestation of this anxiety.

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