Safety, Pain, Home, Freedom : A Thematic Exploration of the Medicalization of Childbirth as a Tool of Racism and Colonialism
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My paper explores the medicalization of birth, which is the historical process by which the dominant method of childbirth went from being a community affair rooted in traditional ways of knowing to a procedure that takes place in a hospital under the control and surveillance of doctors. I will be exploring this process through the themes of "safety," "pain" and "home," These concepts allow us to understand how the treatment of a birthing person as an object rather than an agent of childbirth is rooted in racism and colonialism, and specifically anti-Blackness, since midwifery in the United States began with Black midwives. In analyzing the particular role that Black midwives and doulas have played in resisting this medicalization, I show how their work has both found commonalities and exacerbated differences between white feminist framings and reproductive justice framings of birthing justice. The paper ends by exploring how contemporary birth workers and the Black-led organization Rootead in Kalamazoo are imagining futures that center joy and offer understandings of “control” over birth that create new possibilities of freedom.