Culture, Multiculturalism and Diversity: A Feminist Antiracist Examination of South Asian Immigrant Women’s Utilization of Cancer Screening Services

By Sanzida Zohra Habib.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

A number of studies on cancer screening behaviour among women in Canada reveal that South Asian immigrant women are less likely than general population to have either a mammogram or a Pap smear. Many tend to focus on these women’s beliefs and knowledge about and attitudes towards breast cancer, breast self-examination, mammogram, and/or cervical cancer and Pap smear. These beliefs and attitudes are believed to originate from and influenced by their culture and to prevent them from engaging in cancer detection practices. Thus for improved accessibility, most of these studies recommend culturally sensitive service delivery or awareness about minority cultures among health professionals. Culturally sensitive or cross-cultural care, informed and shaped by the state multicultural policy, is a popular approach to addressing the needs of ethnic minority peoples, or ‘multicultural others’ and managing ethnic or cultural diversity within the Canadian health care system. Drawing the antiracist critiques of multiculturalism in the area of South Asian women’s use of cancer screening tests, this paper will argue that multicultural discourse has effectively moved the attention away from racism and other systemic barriers in Canadian society while attributing the problem of inequitable access primarily to the culture of these women. In the multicultural paradigm the structural and material differences or inequities among populations are reduced to the issue of ethnic and cultural diversity. The discourse of diversity overlooks power differences explaining them in merely cultural terms that construct culture along with ethnicity and community pre-given, static, and independent of social, historical, economic and structural forces. This paper will also emphasize the importance of antiracist and postcolonial feminist scholarship in understanding South Asian women’s experience of health inequities and underutilization of cancer screening services.

Keywords: Ethnicity and Access to Health Care, Diversity, Culture and Multiculturalism, Culturally Sensitive Health Service, South Asian Immigrant Women

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp.187-196. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 576.308KB).

Sanzida Zohra Habib

PhD student, Centre for Women’s and Gender Studies, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

I am currently a PhD student in Women’s Studies at the University of British Columbia (Canada). I did a BA (Honours) in Psychology from Rajshahi University (Bangladesh) and an MA in Women’s Studies from Simon Fraser University (Canada). I have taught courses in Social and Environmental Psychology in the Dept. of Psychology at Rajshahi University. My PhD dissertation research, under the supervision of Dr. Sunera Thobani and Dr. Colleen Varcoe, examines South Asian immigrant women’s access to and experiences with breast and cervical cancer screening services in Canada. My special area of interest/expertise includes feminist antiracist and postcolonial theories, qualitative research methodology and intersectionality.


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