, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 109–133 | Cite as

Between bodies, cultural scripts and power: The reproduction of birthing subjectivities in home-birth narratives

  • Rachelle Joy Chadwick
Original Article


This paper provides an alternative mapping of (home) birthing body-subjects. It argues that an individualist (and phallocentric) model of the subject permeates cross-disciplinary childbirth research, resulting in a limited and ‘disciplined’ representation of birthing subjectivity. Using the theory of the ‘subject-in-process’ outlined by Julia Kristeva, together with poetic methodological devices drawn from the voice-centred relational method of Carol Gilligan and colleagues, this paper attempts to represent birthing subjectivity in alternative ways. It shows how (home) birthing subjectivities emerged as contradictory movements as they performatively ‘told’ childbirth, positioned paradoxically in relation to three key narratives, namely: clockwork birth, lived birth and undecidable birth. The paper argues that a Kristevan theory of the subject allows a rethinking of the birthing body-subject, showing how these subjectivities are produced (in talk) as unstable, ambiguous movements, constantly interrupted and disrupted by the play of ideological voices, cultural scripts, bodily energies and socio-linguistic constraints.


childbirth embodiment subjectivity narrative home-birth subject-in-process 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rachelle Joy Chadwick
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western CapeSouth Africa

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