‘Conceiving of risk in childbirth: obstetric discourses, medical management and cultural expectations in Switzerland and Jordan’


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Article: article from journal or magazin.
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Case report (case report): feedback on an observation with a short commentary.
‘Conceiving of risk in childbirth: obstetric discourses, medical management and cultural expectations in Switzerland and Jordan’
Risk Health and Society
Maffi Irene, Gouilhers Solène
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In highly industrialised societies, risk shapes representations and practices surrounding childbirth. However, few studies examine the impact of its transnational circulation in medium and low income societies, where, despite the adoption of biomedical protocols on an institutional level, women and birth attendants seem often moved by different rationales in their practices. In this article, we are interested in the various components of the notion of risk, which shall be understood and examined in relation to specific socio-economic, political and cultural configurations. Drawing on two ethnographic studies respectively conducted in a Swiss university hospital and in three Jordanian government hospitals, we investigate how surveillance and medical interventions are deployed in pregnancy and childbirth in unequally structured health systems and describe negotiations and appropriations surrounding this management. These two contrasting cultural, socio-economic and health ‘system’ contexts reveal important differences in the way birth attendants and women consider the notion of risk in childbirth in that it is seldom present in clinicians’ and women’s discourses and practices in Jordan, whereas it plays a relevant role in Switzerland.
We argue that the heterogeneous configurations of risk mobilised by our Jordanian and Swiss interlocutors reveal that dissimilar histories in terms of medical institutions and health care service provisions, political regimes, economic conditions, and social configurations shape the cultural and techno-medical arrangements of the institutions we studied. Comparing our Jordanian and Swiss ethnographies, we show that the mobilisation of biomedical risk does not happen in a vacuum but intertwine with specific social arrangements eliciting resistance and adaptation that fashion discourses and behaviours of birth attendants and pregnant women.
childbirth, fear, Jordan, magic moment, pain, risk, Switzerland
Create date
20/02/2019 17:08
Last modification date
29/01/2020 7:19
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