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Childbirth and Authoritative Knowledge

Cross-Cultural Perspectives

Robbie E. Davis-Floyd (Author), Carolyn Sargent (Author), Rayna Rapp (Foreword)

Available worldwide
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Paperback, 505 pages
ISBN: 9780520207851
August 1997
$36.95, £25.95
This benchmark collection of cross-cultural essays on reproduction and childbirth extends and enriches the work of Brigitte Jordan, who helped generate and define the field of the anthropology of birth. The authors' focus on authoritative knowledge—the knowledge that counts, on the basis of which decisions are made and actions taken—highlights the vast differences between birthing systems that give authority of knowing to women and their communities and those that invest it in experts and machines.

Childbirth and Authoritative Knowledge offers first-hand ethnographic research conducted by anthropologists in sixteen different societies and cultures and includes the interdisciplinary perspectives of a social psychologist, a sociologist, an epidemiologist, a staff member of the World Health Organization, and a community midwife. Exciting directions for further research as well as pressing needs for policy guidance emerge from these illuminating explorations of authoritative knowledge about birth. This book is certain to follow Jordan's Birth in Four Cultures as the definitive volume in a rapidly expanding field.
CONTRIBUTORS:
Grace Bascope, Megan Biesele, Carole Browner, Beverley Chalmers, Elizabeth Davis, Robbie Davis-Floyd, Betty Anne Davis, Deborah Cordero Fiedler, Eugenia Georges, Amara Jambai, Kenneth C. Johnson, Brigitte Jordan, Sheila Kitzinger, Ellen Lazarus, Carol MacCormack, Stacy Leigh Pigg, Nancy Anne Press, Rayna Rapp, Carolyn F. Sargent, Paola M. Sesia, Jane Szurek, Wenda Trevathan, Marsden Wagner
Robbie Davis-Floyd, Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas, is author of Birth as an American Rite of Passage (California, 1992) and co-editor of Cyborg Babies: From Techno-Sex to Techno-Tots (1997). Carolyn F. Sargent, Professor of Anthropology and Director of Women's Studies at Southern Methodist University, is author of Maternity, Medicine, and Power: Reproductive Decisions in Urban Benin (California, 1989) and coeditor of Medical Anthropology: Contemporary Theory and Method (1996).

Council on Anthropology and Reproduction Book Prize, Society for Medical Anthropology

Contributors: Grace Bascope, Megan Biesele, Carole Browner, Beverley Chalmers, Elizabeth Davis, Robbie E. Davis-Floyd, Betty-Anne Daviss, Deborah C. Fiedler, Eugenia Georges, Amara Jambai, Kenneth C. Johnson, Brigitte Jordan, Sheila Kitzinger, Ellen Lazarus, Carol MacCormack, Stacy Leigh Pigg, Nancy Press, Rayna Rapp, Carolyn F. Sargent, Paola M. Sesia, Jane Szurek, Wenda R. Trevathan, and Marsden Wagner. The anthropology of birth came into being after the 1978 publication of Brigitte Jordan's Birth in Four Cultures. To date, Jordan's is still the only anthropological book in print that unites information on birth in diverse cultures under one cover--a gap in the literature that Childbirth and Authoritative Knowledge will fill. Cross-cultural birth information is in great demand in the postmodern era, as birth itself becomes an increasingly contested global domain in which the Western supervaluation of high technology confronts the struggles of indigenous peoples to maintain their lifeways, and women's fight for the control of reproduction contends with biomedicine's growing hegemony in that arena. This book, which presents new perspectives on these issues and more, brings together research on birth in over sixteen different cultures. Thirteen chapters are authored or coauthored by anthropologists who have conducted firsthand ethnographic research on birth (their coauthors include a midwife, a psychologist, and a community health physician), supplemented by five chapters presenting interdisciplinary perspectives from a social psychologist, an epidemiologist, a staff member of the World Health Organization, and a community midwife. All the chapters are theoretically linked through the medium of Jordan's concept of authoritative knowledge--the knowledge that counts, on the basis of which decisions are made and actions taken. The authors investigate the constitution of authoritative knowledge about birth as an ongoing social process that builds on(?) and reflects contested power relationships and cultural values in a wide range of communities, both local and global. This focus highlights the vast differences between the birthing systems that give authority of knowing to women and their communities and those that invest it in experts and machines. Childbirth and Authoritative Knowledge is certain to follow Jordan's Birth in Four Cultures as the definitive volume in the rapidly expanding field of the anthropology of birth.

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