Institutional Global Maternal Nutrition Communication: Unblackboxing Rhetorical Power Dynamics in Transnational Spaces

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Virginia Tech


Grounded at the intersection of rhetorics of health and medicine (RHM), technical and professional communication (TPC), and transnational institutional communication, my study aimed to explore the transnational issues of negotiation and power and (mis)articulations within the realm of global maternal nutrition (MN) communication design. Specifically, I sought to demystify the behind-the-scenes interactions and negotiations among funders (in this case, USAID headquarters), contractors (global health designers for a project called "Advancing Nutrition"), and local partners (Global South program implementers).

To achieve this goal, I conducted a rhetorical analysis of twenty-eight publicly available Advancing Nutrition MN artifacts, including program guides, worksheets, toolkits, and multimedia discourses. Additionally, I performed fifteen episodic narrative interviews with key informants from the Advancing Nutrition team, USAID, and local implementing agencies in India, Kyrgyz Republic, and Ghana. Through the theoretical lenses of power as assemblage and articulation, my findings suggested a continual flux of (re)articulation tension within global MN communication design.

This tension stemmed from power assemblages—a confluence of historical-political-ideological forces at the production site in the Global North and the rigid socio-cultural framework at the implementation site in the Global South—in transnational content creation spaces. This tension manifested in maternal-child nutrition indicators, temporally bound MN program design, community narratives in local implementation sites, and an emphasis on normative views of women's nutrition.

Despite the power differentials among funders, contractors, and implementers, global health designers employed tactical technical communication approaches, including coalitional actions and reconstructive moves, to empower women and mothers in the Global South. Thus I conclude that technical and health communication scholars can help global institutional actors create socially-inclusive communication design and foster intentional community-engaged interventions by both attuning themselves to and exposing globalized power structures in the context of public health document creation.



transnational communication, institutional communication, maternal nutrition, power assemblages, articulation, user advocacy