Seminar: “Childbirth and Power in India”

Seminar: “Childbirth and Power in India”

School of Modern Languages and Applied Linguistics
Autumn Research Seminar Series
 
Thursday 7 September, 3pm, B1005.
All Welcome
 
“Childbirth and Power in India”
Dr. Antonia Navarro Tejero. University of Córdoba, Spain
 
Taking into account that obstetric violence is gender violence, we make an account of history of the medicalization of childbirth during the British Raj in India, and we describe how birth and delivery were stolen from indigenous midwives (dais). The colonial ideology brought the idea that white Western man could save India from its worst nightmares, either real or constructed by the same Empire. The professionalization of the role of traditional birth assistants and the medicalization of childbirth were the "healing" tools imposed by the West, once the bodies of women in labour were defined as pathological, as if labour is treated as if it were a disease (therefore pain), it has to be opposed at hospitals and with the "advances" of Western medicine. In order to unravel the mechanisms of this internalized violence in India, we make use of the theories promulgated by the Subaltern Studies Group, Spivak, Mohanty, and Foucault, in order to demonstrate that not only motherhood, but also the rite which converts women into mothers, have been manipulated by power. In this paper, we focus on the role of indigenous birth assistants and how they were displaced by British obstetricians, who convinced the wealthy Indians that childbirth without "science" is not possible, so that they could practice artificial methods newly acquired in their training as midwives in England, as for example the use of drugs and interventions routinely. In addition of analysing the triple marginalization of indigenous birth assistants in their subaltern status, we highlight the current mechanisms of reassessment of their ancestral practices that place the domestic sphere back to its subversive potential.
 
Antonia Navarro Tejero, Ph.D. in English, has lived and lectured in the USA, India and Spain. She teaches English Literature at the University of Córdoba (Spain), where she also coordinates the India Studies Research Group. Among other awards and recognitions, she was a 2004-2005 Fulbright postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research interests include Transnational Gender Studies, and Postcolonial Theory and Criticism with emphasis on India and its diaspora. She is the Editor of the India Studies Series at Cambridge Scholars Publishing, and is the author of Globalizing Dissent: Essays on Arundhati Roy (Routledge, 2009). She has presented papers at conferences around the world on issues of subalternity, and is the Founder-President of the Spanish Association for Interdisciplinary India Studies.