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Birth as an American Rite of Passage Paperback – March 15, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Davis-Floyd has written a brilliant feminist analysis of childbirth rites of passage in American culture. These rites, she argues, take away women's power over their bodies, naturally designed to bring life into the world, and for no physiological reason give it to the medical system. She believes that society, intimidated by women's ability to give birth, has designed obstetrical rituals that are far more complex than natural childbirth itself in order to deliver what is from nature into culture. "In this way," she writes, "society symbolically demonstrates ownership of its product." This beautiful book, full of insightful interviews with women on a range of birth experiences and with an extensive bibliography, is a wonderful addition to the growing literature on the anthropology of the body and the theoretical debates over mind/body and nature/culture dichotomies. Essential for all anthropology and women's studies collections and medical school libraries and highly recommended for public libraries.
- Patricia Sarles, Mt. Sinai Medical Ctr. Lib., New York
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"[Davis-Floyd] is a respectful listener who has encouraged her subjects to speak honestly about a complex experience. Consequently, even skeptical readers of the fascinating stories she has gathered should be prompted to reflect on the meaning of their own or their partners' experience of birth. . . . I admire, without reservation, the generous, critical, passionate spirit that animates this book."--Sara Ruddick, New York Times Book Review -- Review
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Second Edition, With a New Preface edition (March 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520229320
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520229327
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #429,142 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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I found this book to be fascinating and so much of it rang true.
Kelly
If you'd really like to remove yourself from the technobirth machine, read Ina May Gaskin's Ina May's Guide to Childbirth and Spiritual Midwifery.
Doulawoman
I would HIGHLY recommend this book to any pregnant woman or any woman who has given birth.
korieangela

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 53 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
The majority of obstetric procedures, from putting on a hospital gown to the birthing position itself, are unnecessary and sometimes dangerous rituals that are perpetuated by an authoritarian system in its desire to maintain control over a virtually uncontrollable process. Robbie Davis-Floyd has studied these rituals of birth; why taking the ride to L&D in the wheelchair sets up an invalid mindset in the laboring woman, and how the lithotomy position robs the woman of her birthing power, forcing her to rely on the medical professions to deliver her baby for her.
It is powerful stuff and difficult to accept, but truth sometimes is.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Doulawoman on October 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
If you really want to know what to expect when you're expecting, read this book and Henci Goer's Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth. If you'd really like to remove yourself from the technobirth machine, read Ina May Gaskin's Ina May's Guide to Childbirth and Spiritual Midwifery. If you've always thought you might want a natural birth, read Peggy O'Mara's Having a Baby, Naturally. And remember this one thing: If you really (really) want a natural, unmedicated birth, don't give birth in a hospital.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Christina B Morrow on October 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
If you are a woman looking for a thoughtful review of our modern birthing culture this is a wonderful book. I have read a lot about birth options, perspectives of the birth experience, and midwifery history and philosophy but went away wanting for more. My desire to really explore an informed text about our birthing culture was finally satiated by this book. I am not an anthropologist by training and yet found the book accessible, educational, and challenging. I really suggest this book be read by everyone interested in the birth experience, partners, attendants, birthing woman, or children of technocracy.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Bzbee@aol.com on April 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
This was a paradigm blowing must read for any woman. A fluid read and with intense narratives. The most educational book I've read in a long time.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Christopher R. Travers on December 19, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ok, I'm feeling a little self-conscious being the first male reviewer of this book on Amazon, but here it is. Everyone should read this book, male or female, American or not, whatever. This book will change the way you look not only at childbirth but at the medical profession and society as a whole. It's a fascinating read. Most of the book is applicable throughout most of the world.

Pregnant women of course will get out of this a social critique regarding the approaches to childbirth in hospitals, how these support and ensure the continuation of patriarchy in our society, etc. Women who are not pregnant will gain from it a different sense of modern medicine and society as a whole. Men are likely to be confronted with a great deal of information about the nature of culture and things we take for granted all the time.

In the end, this is a solid piece of anthropology, and moreover it does well what women's studies are supposed to do: provide a new angle over well-trodden ground which explores the cultural contradictions regarding gender roles in modern society. This is not a book full of laments of lost prestige (as stereotypes might lead one to presume), but rather a careful, reasoned critique of how our culture operates and how this is intensified during the childbirth process. It further explores why so many women accept and embrace patriarchy in childbirth.

More to the point, this book will challenge how you look at health care more generally and its relationship to societal values. Highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Claire Martin on January 16, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book offers really great insight into what happens when technology and pregnancy meet in American culture as well as to the responses to the American technocratic approach to childbirth. I really liked that she included doctor's perspectives, giving the reader a look at both sides of the coin. She explored not only women who felt victimized by their experiences in hospitals, but also women who felt empowered by the same experiences. To her shock, she found that more women actually feel safer and more comfortable with a highly technocratic birth and she examines why this might be.

The book was very insightful but I found some slow chapters in the middle of the book that seemed to result from saying the same things over and over. I also constantly found myself amazed at some of the experiences of women in hospitals and asking myself if this information is still relevant today considering this book was written in 1992 and a lot of her research was dated in the late 80s. Never the less, it is a great recent history of childbirth in American hospitals. The attitudes of the doctors and women interviewed for this work surely continue to reflect, in many ways, the attitudes still held today considering it wasn't THAT long ago.

I recommend this book to women who plan to have their baby in a hospital because I think that it will serve to inform and as a result empower. If you seek to stay in control of your body and the birth of your child, this book would offer much insight. For women who do not want to have their children in the hospital, well, this book will only confirm why you feel that way.
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Frequently Bought Together

Birth as an American Rite of Passage + Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care + The Birth Partner - Revised 4th Edition: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions
Price for all three: $49.54

Buy the selected items together