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Birth in Four Cultures : A Crosscultural Investigation of Childbirth in Yucatan, Holland, Sweden, and the United States Paperback – November 1, 1992

ISBN-13: 978-0881337174 ISBN-10: 088133717X Edition: 4th

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 235 pages
  • Publisher: Waveland Pr Inc; 4th edition (November 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 088133717X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0881337174
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #433,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"As revised and expanded, this edition is a multilayered resource volume for students of birthing practices in the West and internationally. The original text is well enough preserved to enable those who have not read it to appreciate Jordan's pioneering insights. The three added chapters are a thought- provoking continuation of some themes initially explored in the original work, and introduce readers to Jordan's current research on learning, technology, and the social nature of knowledge." -- Birth, Vol. 21, No. 2, June 1994

"We are fortunate to have this classic book back in print again. Since publication of the first edition in 1978, many subsequent anthropological studies have built up a corpus of literature on a topic about which little had previously been written. Returning to Birth in Four Cultures in this fourth edition, one is reminded how wise and generous the author is. She raises the fundamental issues in reproductive health care and gender justice. This is not another doctor-bashing book, but a positive work with insights from many points of view, in the best anthropological tradition." -- Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Vol. 10, No. 1, March 1996

"When this book first appeared in 1978 it was a small volume that carried great weight in the medical anthropological profession, and for applied anthropologists as well. It received the first Margaret Mead Award which was designed to honor a young (under 40) anthropologist whose book was deemed to have an applied impact on practice beyond the confines of traditional academic anthropology. This reviewer must admit that, at the time, it seemed to be a big furor over a matter of little earthshaking importance--women had been birthing for countless millennia and the amount of variation possible in the process seemed minuscule. Although I am not ashamed of my earlier view, this fourth edition of what is now a classic work has led me to a diametrically opposite point of view. As with any work that passes through many editions, the book has become more substantial with time--now running to 235 pages. But the manner of updating chosen here allows the reader to be actively aware of the changes in delivery practice in each of the areas under study. Robbie Davis-Floyd has chosen to insert clearly marked updates which highlight the changes in practice over the 15-year period since the publication of the first edition. This is a splendid new edition, a growing contribution to the anthropology of birth, and one which can be read with profit by any who have concerns with the cross-cultural practice of medicine, specifically of obstetrics, as well as by those whose interests are less narrowly defined." --Journal of Biosocial Sciences, Vol. 29, April 1997

"I am using this as part of my Cultures, Pregnancy and Birth class as it is still the seminal volume in cross-cultural studies of birth." --Erica Gibson, University of South Carolina

From the Publisher

Title of related interest also from Waveland Press: Holloway, Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali (ISBN 9781577664352).

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 52 people found the following review helpful By "ber_lin" on December 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
I first read this ethnography as an undergraduate major in anthropology, and now that I've started to teach college level courses as a graduate student in anthropology, I have assigned it in my classes for the last 2 years. Students are always fascinated with the information found in the book -- (largely because this may be the first time in their entire lives that anyone has given them frank information about birth in the US, let alone in other cultural contexts) -- and fruitful and interesting discussions have taken place in my classes after students have read this ethnography. I would highly recommend it for undergraduate and graduate courses in general anthropology, medical anthropology, ethnography, and a myriad of other anthropology, social science, and medical/biology courses.
One thing that I have noticed about those who want to argue about Jordan's findings is that they overemphasize the quoting of statistics from third world nations and that they have a need to justify how Jordan's statistical info about the United States is not as bad as statistical info from other nations -- as if the deaths of a few thousand babies per year here is better than the deaths of many thousands of babies per year elsewhere. This information is often coupled with a need to bring in still other types of birth statistics that are meant to nullify or throw into question the validity of birth statistics that show how the US consistently lags behind other industrialized nations in infant mortality rates -- today as well as in Jordan's "ethnographic present" time in the late 1970's.
But these kinds of arguments just show how much people can and do miss the point of reading this ethnography.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
Jordan examines the birth event within the context of the social norms of that culture. For example, in a culture where no one is "in charge" of the birth, a specialised tool (e.g. forceps) has no place, for that would defeat the equality of all participants. The midwife's role is to assist the family in fulfilling their decisions. By contrast, in a country where birth is hospitalised, birth often becomes an "illness" which needs to be "treated" - the mother becomes the patient, and the doctor takes charge.I preferred this to "Birth traditions and modern pregnancy care" (Priya), which listed a variety of customs without examining the sociological implications. "Birth in four cultures" touches upon a variety of lessons that a culture's birth event can teach: the women's role in society, how the birth experience is defined (natural vs medical), etc. Jordan writes in the first person, and gives many accounts of births she attended. This is an excellent read for anyone interested in comparing the birth experience in the USA with other countries, possibly with the aim to change their opinions of what an "ideal" birth is. As a feminist, I found this empowering: since the birth experience is uniquely female, the societal norm will tell us a lot about our place in that culture.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 27, 1999
Format: Paperback
"Birth in Four Cultures," by Brigette Jordan was a required reading text for my class in Medical Anthropology. The book discusses the birthing practices of several different cultures, but Jordan describes some cultures more than others. The primary focus of the book is the women of the Yucatan, where Jordan did her field work. This part of the book is done very well, but the rest of the book is lacking. She did not have enough experience with the rest of the cultures to be able to write a strong comparison. While all four cultures were talked about, Sweden and the Yucatan were discussed the most and were the most interesting. If you are not familiar with birthing practices outside of the US, I suggest you read this book because you will be introduced to very different beliefs and practices.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Honest reader on May 31, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a formal cross-cultural study on birthing practices across the globe. The author writes in an academic style, but the information is fascinating and vital in understanding how cultural/social frameworks surrounding birth, play a huge part in the practice and experiences of women giving life. Though written several decades ago, the medicalization of labor in America has continued along it's dehumanizing path. Still relevant and worth the read!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Erik Tootell on February 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book by Brigitte Jordan compares the way we look at and carry out the birth process in the US compared the way the Mayans in Yucatan do. Birth in Holland and Sweden is also examined, somewhat secondarily. The author is an anthropologist and was clearly committed to using social science methodology to carry out her studies. The result is not a countercultural advocacy piece but rather a thorough treatise that acknowledges what is good in the American, technological births, and what may be less than optimal in the Mayan culture. She also does a good job articulating how the US approach creates more problems and solves them in the same way that the problem was created, and how the Mayan culture avoids many of these problems. She discusses what seems to work and what seems not to in the way that technological innovation is introduced to indigenous people. Dr. Jordan does all of this with a sensitivity to those in the birth process, a recognition that when birth does not go right for whatever reason, the result can be traumatic for the mother and the child.
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