The location of birth is one of the hotly contested issues of contemporary motherhood. From the earliest academic studies about pregnancy and birth, particularly the feminist analyses offered by Nancy Stoller Shaw in Forced Labor (1974), Barbara Katz Rothman in In Labor: Women and Power in the Birth Place (1982, 1991), and Emily Martin in The Woman in the Body (1987, 2001) through the classic cross-cultural work of Brigitte Jordan, Birth in Four Cultures (1983, 1993) and the more recent work of Robbie Davis Floyd (1992, 2003), to ongoing work such as ours1 (Simonds, Rothman and Meltzer, forthcoming) we have now a richly developing sociology and anthropology of birth. Some of us have looked at the sociology of knowledge: how do we know what we know, and who has the power and authority to know. Some of us have looked at the inter-personal relations in childbirth. Some have looked at the inter-professional relationships, between midwives and obstetricians; between the various “types” of midwives themselves; and, as Bari Meltzer is currently doing,2 between the newest birth occupation, the doulas and these other players. Much of the discussion about birth focuses on practices: epidurals, inductions, episiotomies, fetal monitoring, cesarean sections. But practices are located in space. It is this dimension, the place of birth, that we focus on in this chapter.
KeywordsHome Birth Hospital Birth Birth Experience Birth Center Birth Place
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