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Reproducing Race

An Ethnography of Pregnancy as a Site of Racialization

Khiara Bridges (Author)


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Reproducing Race, an ethnography of pregnancy and birth at a large New York City public hospital, explores the role of race in the medical setting. Khiara M. Bridges investigates how race—commonly seen as biological in the medical world—is socially constructed among women dependent on the public healthcare system for prenatal care and childbirth. Bridges argues that race carries powerful material consequences for these women even when it is not explicitly named, showing how they are marginalized by the practices and assumptions of the clinic staff. Deftly weaving ethnographic evidence into broader discussions of Medicaid and racial disparities in infant and maternal mortality, Bridges shines new light on the politics of healthcare for the poor, demonstrating how the “medicalization” of social problems reproduces racial stereotypes and governs the bodies of poor women of color.
Khiara M. Bridges is Associate Professor of Law and Associate Professor of Anthropology at Boston University.
“Powerful. . . . Bridges builds a thoughtful and important argument. . . . An enormously challenging and valuable book.”—Rayna Rapp Anthropological Quarterly
“The richness of this book’s ethnographic accounts is truly extraordinary, as is a detailed discussion of federal and state programs that provide funding for low-income pregnant women.”—Choice
“This history and sociology of highly stratified pregnancy management is not new. But what makes Bridges’ re-telling in light of her own analysis so important and powerful is her utterly convincing argument that structural racism and its reproduction happens “behind the backs” of even the most committed of doctors, midwives, and administrative staff personnel. Her work should be read by everyone involved in delivering healthcare to those without class privilege.”—Rayna Rapp Anthropological Quarterly
“A beautifully written and well researched ethnographic study of the delivery of prenatal and birth health care at one of our nation’s most preeminent public hospitals. . . . An important theoretical and empirical investigation into the processes of producing and maintaining inequality. . . . The book is a major contribution to the scholarship on race and science, racism and health, health disparities and health equity, biomedicalization, and the diffuse-yet-directed operation of power. Most of all, Bridges makes an important contribution to the historical record on the inequalities produced along class and race lines by the U.S. medical system.”—Laura Mamo American Journal Of Sociology
"Smart." "Eye-opening."—Leslie Hinkson Social Forces
“Bridges radically and actively demonstrates the truth of her claims through outstanding ethnography and analysis. Eminently praiseworthy.”—Robbie Davis-Floyd, author of Birth as American Rite of Passage and lead editor for British Models That Work

“An important and timely contribution to recent scholarship on race in science, medicine, and public health. From the first page, I did not want to put the book down.”—Lundy Braun, Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Africana Studies, Brown University

“There is no doubt that this is an important topic, and one the author is well-positioned to explore. Very, very powerful."—Cheryl Mattingly, author of Healing Dramas and Clinical Plots

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