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Birth as an American rite of passage /

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Format: Book
Language: English
Published: University of California Press, 1992
Series: Comparative studies of health systems and medical care.
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SUMMARY

Why do so many American women allow themselves to become enmeshed in the standardized routines of technocratic childbirth--routines that can be insensitive, unnecessary, and even unhealthy? And why, in spite of the natural childbirth movement, has hospital birth become even more intensely technologized? Robbie Davis-Floyd argues that these obstetrical procedures are rituals that reflect a cultural belief in the superiority of science over nature. Her interviews with 100 mothers and many health care professionals reveal in detail both the trauma and the satisfaction women derive from childbirth. She also calls for greater cultural and medical tolerance of the alternative beliefs of women who choose to birth at home.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Tablesp. x
Preface to the Second Editionp. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xli
Introduction: Birth as a Rite of Passagep. 1
Research Methods and Theoretical Concernsp. 2
Ritual and Ritep. 7
1.One Year: The Stages of the Pregnancy/Childbirth Rite of Passagep. 22
Separation: "Oh my God, I Think I'm Pregnant!"p. 22
Transition: Pregnancy as Transformationp. 23
Transition: Birth as Transformationp. 38
Transition: The Immediate Postpartum Periodp. 40
Integration: "Swimming Up on the Other Side"p. 41
2.The Technocratic Model: Past and Presentp. 44
Medicine as a Microcosm of American Societyp. 45
The Body as Machinep. 48
The Technocratic Model of Birthp. 51
The Role of American Obstetrics in the Resolution of Cultural Anomalyp. 59
3.Birth Messagesp. 73
"Standard Procedures for Normal Birth"p. 73
A Symbolic Analysis of Standard Obstetrical Proceduresp. 75
From Nature to Culture: The Obstetrical Re-Structuring of Accidental Out-of-Hospital Birthsp. 150
Summary: Birth Rituals and Societyp. 152
4.Belief Systems About Birth: The Technocratic, Wholistic, and Natural Modelsp. 154
The Significance of Beliefp. 154
The Wholistic Model of Birthp. 155
The Technocratic and Wholistic Models of Birth Comparedp. 158
"Natural" Models of Birthp. 159
The Ideology of Safetyp. 177
The Alternative Birth Center: A Middle Ground?p. 184
5.How the Messages Are Received: The Spectrum of Responsep. 187
Full Acceptance of the Technocratic Model of Birthp. 189
Full Acceptance of the Wholistic Model of Birthp. 199
Women-In-Betweenp. 206
6.Scars into Stars: The Reinterpretation of the Childbirth Experiencep. 241
Compartmentalizationp. 242
"Further Epistemic Exploration": "Teilhard de Chardin" versus "Sartre"p. 243
7.Obstetric Training as a Rite of Passagep. 252
Methodsp. 252
Processes of Psychological Transformation: Medical School and Residencyp. 254
Alternative Transformations: The Humanistic Paradigmp. 269
Women in Obstetricsp. 276
Obstetrics and American Societyp. 277
8.The Computerized Birth? Some Ritual and Political Implications for the Futurep. 281
The Cultural Consensusp. 281
Women's Rites: The Politics of Birthp. 284
The Technocratic Model of Birth: Futuristic Extremesp. 286
9.--Or Birth as the Biodance?p. 292
Birth as a Means for Accomplishing a Paradigm Shiftp. 292
Wholism in Birth: Futuristic Extremesp. 294
The Computerized Birth, and the Biodance: Envisioning the Richness of Diversityp. 301
Conclusionp. 305
Appendix AInterview Questions Asked of Mothersp. 309
Appendix BInterview Questions Asked of Obstetriciansp. 313
Notesp. 317
Referencesp. 331
Indexp. 369


Review by Choice Review

In this, her doctoral thesis in anthropology, Davis-Floyd argues that a woman during pregnancy and in giving birth is undergoing a "rite of passage," a series of rituals that signify she is moving from one status to another, that of "being a mother." Further, the medical establishment in its work on her as a "patient," engages in a series of actions (such as "prepping" her, giving her a hospital gown, medically inducing labor, giving medication to reduce labor pains, monitoring the fetus, doing an episiotomy), that physicians believe are necessary for successful birth, but are really technocratic rituals, i.e., behavior that typically has little or no instrumental use but that has great symbolic significance. Davis-Floyd attempts to document this from interviews with 100 pregnant women and with medical personnel. She reports that 70% of the women interviewed accepted, to varying degrees, the use of the diverse medical procedures, and some women actively sought them. However, Davis-Floyd, like a number of others, rejects this pattern of birth and would replace it with a holistic experience free of medication, Cesareans, and the like. General; undergraduate; community college; professional. D. Harper; University of Rochester

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review

Davis-Floyd has written a brilliant feminist analysis of childbirth rites of passage in American culture. These rites, she argues, take away women's power over their bodies, naturally designed to bring life into the world, and for no physiological reason give it to the medical system. She believes that society, intimidated by women's ability to give birth, has designed obstetrical rituals that are far more complex than natural childbirth itself in order to deliver what is from nature into culture. ``In this way,'' she writes, ``society symbolically demonstrates ownership of its product.'' This beautiful book, full of insightful interviews with women on a range of birth experiences and with an extensive bibliography, is a wonderful addition to the growing literature on the anthropology of the body and the theoretical debates over mind/body and nature/culture dichotomies. Essential for all anthropology and women's studies collections and medical school libraries and highly recommended for public libraries.-- Patricia Sarles, Mt. Sinai Medical Ctr. Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
AUTHOR NOTES

Robbie Davis-Floyd is Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology, University of Texas, Austin, and Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Case Western Reserve University


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