Boston Birth Workers
This ethnographic study follows Greater Boston birth workers to understand the following questions: 1) What do area birth workers see as the problems within the maternity care system? 2) What role does knowledge, i.e. medical vs. alternative knowledge, play in their work? 3) What is their reason for doing this work? 4) How do they go about their work? In analyzing my ethnographic data, I used theory on discourse, power and knowledge (Foucault 1973; 1971; 1978; 1980), childbirth and authoritative knowledge (Davis-Floyd & Sargent 1997), the commodification of healthcare (Rylko-Bauer & Farmer 2002), and social movement theory, including work on communities of practice (Wenger 1998), reflexive consumption and citizen publicizers (DuPuis 2000) and consciousness-raising (Hooks 2000). Through this I find that Greater Boston birth workers find fault with the singularity of medical discourse surrounding birth and with the fact that the commodification of healthcare has resulted in lower quality care for marginalized populations, primarily people of color and low socioeconomic status (SES) individuals. Furthermore, Greater Boston birth workers aim to advocate for their clients through the unique discourse about birth which their community has formed. By employing narratives counter to medicalized birth and sharing alternative, experiential knowledge, birth workers allow women to be conscious of the ways the medical maternity system does them a disservice.