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Reinscribing the Birthing Body: Homebirth as Ritual Performance

In the  Medical Anthropology Quarterly, released this month, Melissa Cheyney examines the clinical practices engaged in by U.S. homebirth midwives and their clients from the beginning of pregnancy through to the immediate postpartum period, deconstructing them for their symbolic and ritual content. Read this quarter’s issue by logging in to AnthroSource.

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One Response

  1. “Alleging c-sections go down if midwives chant is silly.” Hank Campbell http://www.science20.com/science_20/midwife_rituals_antiscience_or_just_symbolism-85669

    There’s a lot of anthropology that goes forward these days that has made the swing toward the emic view so hard as to take a leap from reality. This article in MAQ has become another touchstone in the large-scale social cynicism that everything establishment and ‘scientific’ is wrong. Or, at least no more right then, say, middle class white amercian belief’s about home birthing or vaccinations.

    Since being picked up by Hank Campbell’s Science 2.0 webpage a minor twitter and blogosphere flurry has emerged. The usual sorts having chimed in with either pro or anti commentary.

    Leaving aside the question about what makes for safer childbirth, the original comment by Campbell and article by Cheyney raises a critical methodological issue – what can anthropologists claim about their reserach? Can a method that, in the MAQ case, is primarily oriented toward eliciting the construction of meaning for participants actually say anything about medical practices? It would make sense that such an approach can tell us much about the sentiments and beliefs of both midwifes and their clients; but whether or not it can tell us anything about the efficacy of their methods and ‘rituals’ in terms of safer childbirth I have serious doubts.

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