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

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A number of studies on cancer screening behaviour among women in Canada reveal that South Asian immigrant women are less likely to have a Mammogram or a Pap- smear. Most studies of South Asian immigrant women’s utilization of cancer screening services identify socio-economic, demographic and cultural determinants that are believed to influence these women’s under-utilization of Mammogram and Pap-smear. A lot of them 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, which are believed to originate from their culture, and to prevent them from engaging in cancer detection practices. Thus for improved accessibility, most 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 populations, or ‘multicultural others’ and managing diversity within the Canadian health care system. Drawing the antiracist critiques of multiculturalism in the area of South Asian women’s use of Pap-smear and Mammogram, this paper will reveal that multicultural discourse has effectively removed the attention away from racism and other systemic barriers in the Canadian society while attributing the problem of inequitable access to the culture of these women. In the multicultural paradigm the structural and material differences or inequities among population are reduced to the issue of diversity. Through the discourse of diversity the power differences are neutralized and explained in merely cultural terms whereas culture along with ethnicity and community is constructed as pre-given, static, and independent of the social, historical, economic and structural forces. This paper will also reinforce the importance of antiracist and postcolonial feminist scholarship in understanding South Asian women’s experience of health disparities 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
Stream: Disability, Health
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Culture, Multiculturalism and Diversity


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 Social Psychology and Environment Psychology in the Dept. of Psychology at Rajshahi University. My PhD research, under the supervision of Dr. Sunera Thobani, examines the health disparities and health care accessibilities as experienced by South Asian immigrant women in Canada. My special area of interest/expertise includes feminist antiracist theories, qualitative research methodology and intersectionality.

Ref: D08P0170