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Childbirth and Authoritative Knowledge Cross-Cultural Perspectives

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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.