Activism, Care, Medical Anthropology, Feminist Anthropology, Morocco, Middle East and North Africa, Reproduction, Sexuality, Abortion


Jess Marie Newman is a feminist medical anthropologist working in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). She joined Temple University as an Assistant Professor of Anthropology in 2018. She is an Affiliated Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and International Studies. Dr. Newman is chiefly interested in reproduction, care provision, activism, media, post-coloniality, and the state. Dr. Newman's expertise includes anthropology of the MENA, gender and sexuality including feminist and queer theory, and social movement research. Dr. Newman's work has focused on the dynamics of care seeking and activism surrounding stigmatized reproduction in Morocco, including single motherhood and abortion. 

Her first book book manuscript, Unsafe: Deserving Abortion in Morocco, is currently in preparation. The book explores abortion activism and care in Morocco, unraveling how international media and pressure politics directly influenced abortion provision and care seeking at a local hospital stuck squarely in the limelight of Morocco’s abortion debate. Unsafe highlights the contradictions of providing and seeking abortion care in contexts where the procedure is illegal. Morocco provides the grounding case study elucidating how global abortion politics and public health agendas targeting unsafe abortion intersect with local institutions and ideologies. Through fine-grained ethnographic analysis, the book demonstrates that banning abortion, legislating abortion into inaccessibility, making medical abortion inaccessible, and criminalizing abortion seekers and providers are all ingredients in the making of unsafe abortion. In Morocco, unsafe abortion thus indexes many things: the legal vulnerability that both practitioners and patients face, encounters that expose vulnerable people to financial extortion and emotional abuse, harmful procedures performed both inside and outside of medical contexts, and political retribution for speaking out about abortion. A central aim of Unsafe is therefore to de-escalate the conversation about abortion by showing the banality of everyday abortion care and the multiple vectors of harm that restrictive laws potentiate.

Prior to joining the faculty at Temple University Jess was a Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Yale University. She received her PhD in Anthropology and a graduate certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Yale University in 2017. Her dissertation, “Making the Mére Célibataire: NGOs, Activism, and Single Motherhood in Morocco” received the Association for Feminist Anthropology Dissertation Award.

Selected Publications

  • 2019. “‘There is a big question mark’: Managing Ambiguity in a Moroccan Maternity Ward.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly.
  • 2018. “Aspirational Maternalism and the ‘Reconstitution’ of Single Mothers in Morocco.” Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies 14 1 : 45-67.
  • 2018. “Deploying the Fetus: Constructing Pregnancy and Abortion in Morocco.” Anthropology of the Fetus: Biology, Culture, and Society. Han, Sallie, Tracy Betsinger, and Amy Scott, eds. Oxford: Berghahn Books, 200-226. 
  • 2016. “Sex Toys and the Politics of Pleasure in Morocco.” Abortion Pills, Test Tube Babies, and Sex Toys: Emerging Sexual Reproductive Health Technologies in the Middle East and North Africa. Wynn, L. L. and Angel Foster, eds. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. 
  • 2015. “Medical Anthropology in the Middle East and North Africa.” A Companion to the Anthropology of the Middle East. Soraya Altorki, ed. Boston: Wiley Blackwell Publishers, 207-232. With Marcia C. Inhorn. 

Courses Taught

  • Mobility and Global Inequality
  • Medical Anthropology
  • People and Cultures of the Middle East
  • Anthropology of the Family (Topics in Anthropology)
  • Fieldwork and Ethnographic Methods
  • Anthropology of Public Health (Topics in Anthropology)
  • Ethnographic Approaches to Reproductive Justice
  • North African Feminisms