Birth as an American Rite of Passage / Edition 2

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Why do so many American women allow themselves to become enmeshed in the standardized routines of technocratic childbirth--routines that can be insensitive, unnecessary, and even unhealthy? Anthropologist Robbie Davis-Floyd first addressed these questions in the 1992 edition. Her new preface to this 2003 edition of a book that has been read, applauded, and loved by women all over the world, makes it clear that the issues surrounding childbirth remain as controversial as ever.
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Editorial Reviews

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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520229327
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 3/15/2004
  • Edition description: Second Edition, With a New Preface
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 424
  • Sales rank: 1,011,341
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Robbie E. Davis-Floyd is a cultural anthropologist specializing in medical and symbolic anthropology and gender studies. She teaches at the University of Texas.

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Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Edition
Introduction: Birth as a Rite of Passage 1
1 One Year: The Stages of the Pregnancy/Childbirth Rite of Passage 22
2 The Technocratic Model: Past and Present 44
3 Birth Messages 73
4 Belief Systems About Birth: The Technocratic, Wholistic, and Natural Models 154
5 How the Messages Are Received: The Spectrum of Response 187
6 Scars into Stars: The Reinterpretation of the Childbirth Experience 241
7 Obstetric Training as a Rite of Passage 252
8 The Computerized Birth? Some Ritual and Political Implications for the Future 281
9 Or Birth as the Biodance? 292
App. A Interview Questions Asked of Mothers 309
App. B Interview Questions Asked of Obstetricians 313
Notes 317
References 331
Index 369
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2008

    Greatest Gift

    I was blessed with being able to read this book since it was in dissertation form. During that time Robbie was 'practicing what she preached' as an educator who was instrumental in bringing family centered birthing practices to our area. She was able to respect and work with the medical doctors as well as the alternate community. In those early years I was able to hear her present at a number of conferences which educated and networked me, moving my work further. Nearly 30 years later, Robbie is a global expert in birthing fields I cannot recommend anyone more highly. Her website, davis-floyd 'dotcom' has many of her full text articles posted.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2007


    This outstanding book reveals a unique perspective on the cultural and personal impact of imposing technological intervention on the most natural of human processes. Shining a critical light on modern birth presents an opportunity for women to re-think their birth choices and make more empowering choices. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for professionals who work with families, as well as parents.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2005


    It was really well written and well organized, however her view is completely biased. Her whole book is about how bad the hospital is and how great home-birth is. Many points for very interesting, but when it comes down to it, it was just too biased for me.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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