Graduation Year

2015

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Reader 1

Piya Chatterjee

Reader 2

Mary Ann Davis

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© 2015 Gabriela M. Al-Shamma

Abstract

Within this thesis I examine Western practices and conceptualizations of childbirth from three distinct angles, with the goal of better understanding how one can negotiate agency in contemporary childbirth. First, I outline the history of the medicalization of childbirth in the West, using a reference frame of the famous second wave feminist text, Our Bodies, Ourselves. Next, I conceptualize agency in the context of contemporary childbirth, first defining the ‘agency’ that I am working with, and then outlining some of the factors that play into the negotiation of agency in one’s childbirth; some of these factors include race, class, location, and information provided about specific medical and physical procedures. Finally, I destabilize the hegemonic Western understanding of labor and birth pain by situating pain as culturally constructed and contextually specific. I provide a few examples of ways in which we can reconceptualize pain in a way that situates it as a unique experience for each individual. The end goal of this thesis is to contextualize current childbirth practices within a specific history of medicalization, and to illustrate the complex nature of agency, but the importance of it to a childbirth in which the mother feels as safe and supported as possible.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff. It is not available for interlibrary loan. Please send a request for access through Contact Us.

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