Ethnography of the University / Ethnography of the University: Focus on Politics 2018 / Undergraduate Ethnography

Student bio: Annika Olsen (Ethnography of the University 2018: Focus on Politics)

I am a third-year undergraduate student studying Socio-Cultural Anthropology, Global Health and French as a second language, and an editor for the Anthropology Undergraduate Journal. After taking part in a science-heavy high school program, it was an internship in the Chitwan Medical College in Bharatpur, Nepal, that introduced me to the complex relationships that are formed in a hospital room between doctors, nurses, families and patients. It was through my own interactions and observations that I changed my aspirations from becoming a doctor to studying the impact of these medical social structures on health care by applying anthropological theory.

As part of this course, I wanted to engage with the abortion debate on campus, which has become more active and controversial since the UTSU withdrew club recognition from the pro-life group. My main interest has grown far beyond the boundaries of the hospital room to include knowledge production and distribution, maintenance of power structures and development in health care at large. To witness a specific debate about a procedure that has been fully incorporated in the medical sphere in my country of birth, the Netherlands, engaging university students in an active debate about abortion and morality challenged me to consider three areas of interest: Why is abortion not just a medical issue in Canada? How was it possible to employ common structures of knowledge, such as science, as evidence for arguments on both sides? Why are students, who are often considered to focus primarily on partying and schoolwork, investing so much time in the debate despite the controversy? This led to a 3-months mini ethnographic study of the practices and dialogue produced by the pro-life group on campus.

Blog posts by Annika:

Discovering a new world perspective

Populism on Campus? Examining Self-Victimization in the Pro-Choice and Pro-Life Movements

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