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IRH Seminar: Annie Menzel “Birthing Paradox”
March 9, 2020 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Monday Seminar: “Birthing Paradox: Race, Colonization, and Radicalism in U.S. Midwifery”
IRH Resident Fellow
Gender and Women’s Studies, UW-Madison
Over the course of the 1970s, white women of various countercultural stripes—from lesbian feminist to New Age communalist—launched a movement to reclaim birth in the United States. These “modern midwives,” as some called themselves, indicted the violence and alienation of hospital protocols, positing home birth as key to power, dignity, and healing for all women—and to profound societal transformation. Yet present-day home birth is mostly accessible to affluent white consumers; systemic racism undermines Black midwives’ opportunities; and training has relied on the bodies of non-U.S. citizen women of color, particularly on the U.S./Mexico border. “Birthing Paradox: Race, Colonization, and Radicalism in U.S. Midwifery,” seeks to understand the contradictions that span the radical aims of early midwifery and its dominant contemporary form. In particular, this talk queries the connection between white midwives’ birth traumas and their replication of racial and colonial hierarchies.
Annie Menzel’s research focuses on race, gender, and reproductive politics in North America. A political theorist and former midwife with emphases on Black political thought, Black feminisms, feminist political theory, queer theory, and biopolitics, her work brings these literatures to bear on the histories and current shape of public health and medicine. She is completing revisions on her first book, The Political Life of Black Infant Mortality, under contract with the University of California Press. Her second book project, Birthing Paradox, seeks to understand the contradictory racial, colonial, and radical politics and practices of U.S. midwifery.