Varenne: quotes from B. Jordan on childbirth in four cultures

Brigitte Jordan

Birth in four cultures Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. 1993

Included here are some quotes from the work which I have found most relevant

p. 3:
In some senses the physiology of birth is universally the same--yet parturition is accomplished in strikingly different ways by different groups of people. We know from crosscultural evidence that birth is universally treated as a marked life crisis event. As such, this period is everywhere a candidate for consensual shaping and social patterning.

It is for this reason that crosscultural comparison can be expected to provide information for a better understanding of the process of childbirth...

p. 10-11: Since the process of giving birth is characterized by a high degree of non-public intimacy, as it has to do with bodily functions and bodily displays, collecting data by asking proves unsatisfactory in fundamental ways... birth is an event of great interactional complexity, where people know how to do without necessarily being able to talk about the details of what they know.

p. 107:
In Yucatan, where the time between birth of the baby and birth of the placenta is recognized as the most dangerous period for the mother (since they have no effective remedies against postpartum hemorrhage, the climax of the birth is the expulsion of the placenta. Only after that do we find the range of reactions that, in American society, occur occur after the baby has appeared: smiles, relief, orienting to the baby, looking out at other persons present, talking to them, the production and appreciation of jokes, and so on.
p. 160:
The woman is instructed to override what her body tells her and to act and feel otherwise. How is that "misrecognition" of her own interests accomplished? More specifically, how can a person be enlisted in the incredibly difficult enterprise of resisting such powerful bodily impulses?

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