The corporeal, the social and space/place: Exploring intersections from a midwifery perspective in New Zealand

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Journal Article
Gender, Place and Culture, 2010, 17 (3), pp. 377 - 391
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This article explores the interrelations between the corporeal, the social and the spatial as they operate to shape the discursive and material realities of childbirth in the obstetric hospital setting. It draws on interviews conducted with midwives throughout New Zealand and embodies key insights derived from the work of Michel Foucault and Elizabeth Grosz. The obstetric hospital is theorised as a product of particular socio-political relations that privilege biomedical constructions of the body and childbirth. Midwives, however, proffer an alternative construction of childbirth and the space/place it is enacted. It is one that requires a woman to actively engage with a variety of birth spaces and take up a range of subject positions that enable her to be a more active agent in the process of parturition. The limited and limiting spatial and discursive arrangements of the obstetric hospital, it is argued, shape the behaviour, subjectivity and corporeality of the maternal body confined within it and therefore the practises of midwives. Unfortunately, and as this article demonstrates, the opportunity to take up such an alternative is limited in the obstetric hospital despite some recent cosmetic attempts to render it more welcoming. © 2010 Taylor & Francis.
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