Introduction – Social and Legal Marginalization of Unwed Mothers

Hi all!  My name is Amy Nicole Clinger and I am rising senior at the College.  I am doing research for my senior honors thesis.  My project has two components.

One, I am researching anthropological and community studies theory in the attempt to merge the methodology of these two disciplines to understand the reality of the relationship between these disciplines and how they can provide the means of research that not only benefits the researcher but the “researched”.  This research is especially important to me personally as I am attempting to navigate the future of my academic and professional work.  Pure academy, which I feel anthropology often has the potential (and affinity) to slip solely within, is no longer enough for me.  I need to find a way to use the skills and knowledge I have learned to form a means of engagement and research that is beneficial to me and others.  I start this journey with high hopes and expectations, but also with a feeling a great (personally applied) pressure upon myself as I feel this research will dictate many of my future actions, goals, and aspirations.  In fact, I hope it does and intend for it to do so.  I am finding that research has the potential shed light on our values, identities, and futures.  I am uncertain that is can be any other way for me, nor should it be any different.  Perhaps this idea is easily argued against with the concept of “objectivity”…. But then again, I have long ceased to believe in this concept, or at the very least question this on a very deep level.  How this affects my research and furthermore the perception of my research, I am uncertain.  But time shall tell.

The second component of my research is creating/forming/writing an ethnography of unwed motherhood in Morocco.  I will be relying primarily on participant observation and interviews in forming this ethnography.  The issue of unwed motherhood is complex and multi-faceted in Moroccan society.  Moroccan society excludes as well as socially and legally marginalizes this segment of the population.  In fact, this segment of society is one of the most marginalized not only in Morocco but all over the North African and Middle Eastern (MENA) region.  These women and their children are deeply stigmatized, their lives and futures profoundly limited.  The influence of Islamic values, public unawareness, rapid social change, accepted social beliefs and customs, as well as legal discrimination forces these women (and their children) into a lifetime of hardship.  It is my intention to delve into this issue with the goals of not only understanding the experience of these women, but in an effort to improve the lives of these women and their children.

Currently it seems that public awareness is one of the most negative influences in the perpetuation of this social marginalization.  The structure of the society clearly stigmatized these women, but Morocco is a country experiencing rapid change.  This change is attributed to many causes, modernity, democratization, etc.  But the fact remains that the society is changing.  With an increasing focus on the human rights experiences of its people, research and awareness of the suffering of these women comes at a crucial time.  The taboo nature of this subject has resulted in a startling gap in the academic literature and into formal research of this social phenomenon.  I hope to add my voice to this limited knowledge in an attempt to increase public awareness and for this knowledge to become part of the process and discussions of change within the country and society.  I also hope to bring this awareness back to the academic environment at the College of William and Mary.  I have started to develop ideas about this apparent and obvious “barrier of silence”, and its negative and harmful effects.  At this point, I envision that this barrier of silence will not only be my greatest personal deterrent to research but also the “thing” that struggle and fight against most upon the conclusion of my research.

And so…. It begins.  Here is to breaking the silence.


  1. clestancona says:

    This is such a great application (as you write about in your first paragraph) of anthropology for social change. Are you conducting your interviews in Arabic? If so, doubly impressed! Good luck.
    -Chelsea E