Ljiljana Pantović Private within the Public: Negotiating Birth in Serbia

What is the role of private practices in providing health care in Serbia? This lecture will present the results of qualitative ethnographic research grounded in eighteen months of fieldwork in public and private maternal health care in Serbia. This research questions the dominant public health literature on post-socialist health care systems that assume the introduction of market practices will replace the need for informal practices (connections). Rather than viewing post-socialist health care systems as unreformed and informality as a legacy of socialism, this research offers an alternative viewpoint. Informal practices remain as mechanisms of response to neoliberal precarity. This research shows that pregnant patients and their medical providers, in different but mutually congruent ways, leverage the emerging private medical sector as favors – negotiating strategies with and within the public maternal health institutions. In everyday patient-provider interactions, the boundaries between a service provided to a customer in the private medical sector and a favor offered in the public sector are blurred.

Ljiljana Pantović holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh. She completed her B.A. and M.A in Ethnology and Anthropology at the University of Belgrade and her second M.A in Gender Studies at the Central European University. Her primary research interest is in medical anthropology, with a particular focus on the political and socio-economic transformations of Eastern European health care systems.