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"The hospital is a uterus": western discourses of childbirth in late modernity : a case study from northern Italy
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Anthropology.
2000 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The medicalisation of Western childbirth that was initiated in the seventeenth century has resulted in healthier women and infants, but it has also changed the cultural definition of birth as a restricted female experience. There is an increasing insistence among experts to define birth as a heterosexual couple's experience and to regard the woman and the foetus as two separate 'patients.' This development potentially implies a marginalisation of women from birthgiving and changed ways of experiencing pregnancy and childbirth.

This thesis aims at analysing the transition to motherhood in contemporary Western societies as an asymmetrical discursive space in which first-time expectant mothers meet with professional experts. At hospitals, prenatal clinics, birth preparation courses, at the actual birth site and in paediatric clinics the women are socialised into an expert-defined cultural model of maternity care. However, they do not just accept the presented model passively: there is a continuing negotiation between the agents of the local birthing system over what is considered to be authoritative knowledge and practice in this area.

The study is based on anthropological fieldwork in 1993/94 in a northern Italian town, Borgo. It focuses on how the experts provide models of and for important birthgiving issues such as what birth is and how pregnancy and birth should be managed, defining women's agency in birthing, and prescribing what is a proper experience of birth.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International , 2000. , 313 p.
Stockholm studies in social anthropology, ISSN 0347-0830 ; 45
National Category
Social Anthropology
Research subject
Social Anthropology
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-69173ISBN: 91-7265-096-6OAI: diva2:475283
Public defence
2000-06-07, 13:00
Available from: 2012-01-10 Created: 2012-01-10 Last updated: 2014-02-07Bibliographically approved

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