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Is all well with birth? Anthropological contributions to reproductive and maternal health systems

11. April – 14. April 2023 

Pan­el at the ASA 2023 con­fer­ence „An unwell world? Anthro­pol­o­gy in a spec­u­la­tive mode” in London


Short Abstract:

This pan­el con­sid­ers how “all is not well with birth” (Chad­wick, 2018), wel­com­ing insights from across repro­duc­tive and mater­nal health. We invite pan­el­lists to re-envi­sion care worlds and spec­u­late how anthro­pol­o­gy can con­tribute to the pro­vi­sion of equi­table and respect­ful health systems.

Long Abstract:

“All is not well with birth” (Chad­wick, 2018). Despite the wide­spread improve­ments in mater­ni­ty ser­vices, glob­al and local inequal­i­ties in care and out­comes per­sist, and dis­pro­por­tion­ate rates of mater­nal and infant mor­tal­i­ty cut along racial, eco­nom­ic and geo­graph­i­cal lines. The WHO named 2020 ‘Year of the Nurse and Mid­wife,’ recog­nis­ing mid­wives’ piv­otal role in pub­lic health, yet the same year the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic upend­ed repro­duc­tive and mater­ni­ty ser­vices, leav­ing many women and birthing peo­ple with­out essen­tial ante­na­tal, birth and post­na­tal care. Repro­duc­tive rights, obstet­ric vio­lence and birth trau­ma are press­ing issues, while rates of cae­sare­an sec­tions and obstet­ric inter­ven­tions con­tin­ue to rise around the world. The chal­lenges and strug­gles relat­ed to ‘pol­i­tics of repro­duc­tion’ (Gins­burg and Rapp, 1991) have nev­er been more fraught and urgent.

This pan­el con­sid­ers the state of birth but also wel­comes insights from schol­ars work­ing across repro­duc­tive and mater­nal health. We recog­nise that expe­ri­ences and pro­vi­sion of ser­vices often hang togeth­er on a ‘con­tin­u­um of care’, involv­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with “all rel­e­vant health care edu­ca­tions, providers, insti­tu­tions and orga­ni­za­tions” includ­ing tra­di­tion­al care­givers, birth atten­dants and mid­wives (Davis-Floyd, 2022). Anthro­pol­o­gists have held a promi­nent role in cri­tiquing bio­med­ical ways of know­ing and doing birth, and recent work sug­gests more hope­ful visions of care, sit­u­at­ed in life-affirm­ing prac­tices pri­ori­tis­ing cul­tur­al safe­ty and well-being. In look­ing for solu­tions, we invite pan­el­lists to re-envi­sion care worlds and spec­u­late on how anthro­pol­o­gy can be a source con­tribut­ing to the pro­vi­sion equi­table, respect­ful and sus­tain­able repro­duc­tive and mater­ni­ty care for all.

Call for papers clos­es on 7 Jan­u­ary 2023.


Best wish­es, 

Cas­san­dra and Chiara