Dr Marion Kajombo

/ May 1, 2023/ 0 comments

Introducing Dr Marion Chirwa Kajombo

The Re-imagining Reproduction project has five postdoctoral research fellows working in various African countries. Over the next few weeks, we will be introducing these incredible researchers to our community. We asked each of our fellows nine questions to get to know them better.

Please tell us who you are, what your area of interest/expertise is, and where in the world you work.

My name is Marion Chirwa Kajombo. I am a sociolinguist, passionate about how language interacts with culture, western medicine, and gender. I work in Malawi as a lecturer at the Malawi University of Science and Technology and the Head of the Department of Language and Communication Studies.

What/who inspired your current research field?

While collecting data for my PhD study on how gynaecologists and their patients communicate taboo subjects, I found that infertility is one of the main taboo topics. In this study, I argue that infertility is a taboo topic because of the associations and results that ensue when infertility is suspected or confirmed. The association with female promiscuity and the effects of confirmed infertility are likely to lead to stigma, discrimination and/or divorce, which points to the importance of childbearing in Malawian society. This indicates that having a child, or the child itself, is valuable. My current desire is to investigate who and what a child is in the life of its parents and the community they live in, and how they are raised to fulfil the role they are to play. In the Malawian setting, like other settings, the term ‘child’ is relative rather than objective, a 40-year-old is, therefore, a child of their parents. So to have a child is to have someone who will be your lifetime child.

What projects have you been working on recently?

I have participated in research, translation and editing activities at the Malawi University of Science and Technology. The research was a Tracer Study which assesses the relevance and effectiveness of the Malawi University of Science and Technology’s academic programs. I was also involved in translating data collecting tools from English to Chichewa for a study titled: Modeling Cost-Effectiveness, Acceptability and Feasibility of Vaccines Against Placental Malaria.

In addition, I was involved in peer-reviewing and editing journal articles for the first issue of Advances in Science and the Arts (ASA) by the Malawi University of Science and Technology.

What about your work challenges you, and which parts make you smile?

It is challenging for me to juggle my many responsibilities. It is always thrilling, however, when I discover new information and my contributions are worthwhile to the body of knowledge in sociolinguistics and medical humanities.

What three positive things have you achieved in the last year?

Last year, after graduating from Stellenbosch University, I participated in organising international conferences (The Bantu9 and CIMPAD-2022), presented three conference papers and won a publishing grant. The papers presented were two individual papers and one panel paper at Bantu9, Communication Medicine and Ethics-COMET2022 and Digital Meeting for Conversation Analysis-DMCA 2022. In addition, I presented my PhD research findings to medical doctors at a Grand-Round hosted by John Hopkins in Malawi. I won a Postdoctoral Writing Grant from the British Institute of East Africa to publish my PhD research findings and I submitted a journal article to the Journal of East African Studies.

What advice can you give to people aspiring to work in your field?

It is essential to set realistic goals and plan how to achieve the goals you have set. It is also necessary to build your own network, which acts as collaborators, mentors, and peers that help you shape and sharpen your career and thought processes. In other words, you have to find your people.

What impact would you like your work to have?

I experience, there is an over-emphasis on the uniqueness of the diverse cultural traditions found in Malawi. However, I want to believe that there are common aspects among the diverse traditions which may define a Malawian identity.

If you had the opportunity to change anything in your field: what would it be, how would you change it, and why?

I am a researcher who generally works with data from a common Malawian language, Chichewa, but writes in English. I would love it if developers could create a computer application which would give both literal and cultural (with implications) translations. This would reduce the time one prepares data for analysis.

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