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The Death of Maternity?

Simone de Beauvoir's A Very Easy Death

Christie McDonald

Contrasting the view of motherhood in Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex with the description of her mother's illness and death in A Very Easy Death, this essay examines the revelation of feelings previously unexplored in the relationship to her mother. Faced with a life-shattering experience, Beauvoir revisits issues not only about motherhood and maternity from her philosophical and sociological study, but her own feelings about her mother and disturbing ways in which doctors and families withheld knowledge from the dying in the mid-twentieth century.

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Emily Ridge

This article probes the complex relationship between mobility and maternity in the works of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century writers, including Mona Caird, Grant Allen, Elizabeth Von Arnim, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, among others. The maternal role came under intense scrutiny from the fin de siècle and the freedom of the mother was a source of contention at a time when women were embracing new opportunities for adventurous travel more broadly. Where did parental expectation or responsibility enter into the women and travel picture? This article explores various attempts to conceive of a free motherhood during the period and to conceive of the womb as something dynamic and empowering rather than burdensome. Finally, honing in on bag-womb analogies, it asks what it meant for a woman to "carry," both materially and metaphorically, in the context of turn-of-the-century debates surrounding female mobility and motherhood.

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Place of Birth and Concepts of Wellbeing

An Analysis from Two Ethnographic Studies of Midwifery Units in England

Christine McCourt, Juliet Rayment, Susanna Rance, and Jane Sandall

provision, with midwives being the primary providers of care, working in collaboration with general practitioners (family doctors) and with obstetricians. Although the number of maternity hospital beds increased steadily in the twentieth century, and

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Oana Bălută

Ramona Păunescu, Evoluţii politice ale maternităţii: Perspective Feministe (Political evolutions of maternity: Feminist perspectives), Iaşi: Polirom Publishing House, 2012, 252 pp., RON24.95 (pb), ISBN 978-973-46-2448-5.

Bianca Burţa-Cernat, Fotografi e de grup cu scriitoare uitate (Group photography with forgotten women writers), Bucharest: Cartea Românească Publishing House, 2011, 237 pp., RON34.95 (pb), ISBN 978-973-23-2946-7.

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Mackenzie Belt and Adam Drazin

Au Pair. Zuzana Búriková and Daniel Miller, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010, ISBN: 0-7456-5011-1. 240pp. Hb: £50, Pb: £15.99.

Domestic Goddesses: Maternity, Globalization and Middle-class Identity in Contemporary India. Henrike Donner, London: Ashgate, 2008, ISBN: 978-0-7546-4942-7. 230pp. Hb £55.

The Force of Domesticity: Filipina Migrants and Globalization. Rhacel Salazar Parreñas, New York: New York University Press, 2008, ISBN: 0-8147-6734-6. 224pp. Pb $22.

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Conflicting Notions of Continuity and Belonging

Assisted Reproduction, Law, and Practices in Norway

Marit Melhuus

This article explores the interface between law, technology, and practices. More specifically, it addresses how biotechnologies—in particular, reproductive technologies—move people in different ways. Taking as its point of departure certain restrictions in the Norwegian biotechnology law, it explores changes in procreative practices and their implications for understandings of notions of belonging. This is tied to a gradual shift in meaning of the concepts of paternity and maternity, which in turn has ramifications for kinship and hence fundamental ideas of relatedness. Two premises underpin the arguments: first, that law is a cultural artifact productive of meaning, and, second, that as a social phenomenon, biotechnologies bring to the fore fundamental moral dilemmas.

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Dora Verus Dora

Exploding the Myth in Wise Children

Judy Hayden

'A woman attends a funeral. The coffin is lowered into the grave. A man approaches her and says, "He was not your father."' Thus begins a book, On Birth and Madness, by Eric Rhode, an opening reproduced in a review by Angela Carter. In this 'wayward and infuriating book', Carter observes, Rhode is remarkably absorbed by paternity, by Oedipus, by Hamlet and by Freud's LIttle Hans – in a book which ostensibly addresses maternity. Whose child we are, our paternity, Carter counters, is a 'profoundly absurd question' ('Rhode', 202–03).

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'Murdered at the Breast'

Maternal Violence and the Self-Made Man in Popular Victorian Culture

Andrew Mangham

Motherhood, for the Victorians, was seen not just as an organic phase of womanhood, but a responsibility that required a constant system of behavioural actions or inactions to make it a success rather than a danger. In this essay, I explore mid-nineteenth-century formulations of maternity through the ‘work’ of two women: Mary Ann Brough and Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Both women played a significant role within the era’s popular culture. In 1854, Brough notoriously cut the throats of six of her children, killing them all, and then attempted suicide by cutting her own.1 From 1862 until her death in 1915, Braddon was one of Britain’s most popular and prolific novelists. Through analysis of the correlations and inconsistencies between non-fictional reactions to the crimes of Mary Brough and representations of dangerous maternities in the early fiction of Mary Braddon, this piece aims to explore the period’s biological and social ideas of motherhood in relation to emerging ideas on male professionalism and class mobility.

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Replication, Regeneration or Organic Birth

The Clone in Deryn Rees-Jones' Quiver and Donna Haraway's 'A Cyborg Manifesto'

Zoë Brigley

Rees-Jones' Quiver and Donna Haraway's 'A Cyborg Manifesto' explore how different mythologies of being can emancipate women from and create a dialogue with ordinary female reproduction. Haraway and Rees-Jones use advances in reproductive and mechanical technologies to imagine new modes of being which are not simply products of the imagination, but a recycling of images and debates of concern to women and feminists. In Test-Tube Women: What Future for Motherhood?, Rita Arditti, Renate Duelli Klein and Shelley Minden ask a pertinent question: '[e]ach time a new technological development is hailed the same question arises: is this liberation or oppression in a new guise?' Both Haraway and Rees-Jones explore the rise of new technologies in relation to gender and maternity and gauge the emancipatory or oppressive possibilities.

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Anthropological Insights about a Tool for Improving Quality of Obstetric Care

The Experience of Case Review Audits in Burkina Faso

Marc-Eric Gruénais, Fatoumata Ouattara, Fabienne Richard, and Vincent De Brouwere

The ratio of maternal morbidity and mortality in developing countries is high. The World Health Organization (WHO) and public health specialists promote case review audits as a means of improving quality of obstetric care. This reflects the need for high reactivity in health personnel's management of obstetric complications. Within an action-research programme in Burkina Faso, a trial of case review audits was implemented in a maternity ward. This was designed to help health personnel better align their practice with clinical standards and to enable more consideration of pregnant women's needs. Social anthropologists were involved in these case review audits in order to collect data about pregnant women's lifestyles and circumstances. They also worked to train health personnel to conduct interviews. Although it is important to take account of women's circumstances within audit sessions, conducting interviews in 'anthropological ways' (at women's homes, with observations) is time consuming and may sometimes be better replaced with interviews in hospital contexts. Anthropologically informed interviews may pinpoint socio-economic situations as key reasons for problems in healthcare, but health personnel are usually powerless to address these. However, anthropology contributes an awareness of the relevance of these issues for broader healthcare planning.