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Reproducing Race

Reproducing Race: An Ethnography of Pregnancy as a Site of Racialization

Khiara M. Bridges
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 306
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1ppjpz
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  • Book Info
    Reproducing Race
    Book Description:

    Reproducing Race, an ethnography of pregnancy and birth at a large New York City public hospital, explores the role of race in the medical setting. Khiara M. Bridges investigates how race-commonly seen as biological in the medical world-is socially constructed among women dependent on the public healthcare system for prenatal care and childbirth. Bridges argues that race carries powerful material consequences for these women even when it is not explicitly named, showing how they are marginalized by the practices and assumptions of the clinic staff. Deftly weaving ethnographic evidence into broader discussions of Medicaid and racial disparities in infant and maternal mortality, Bridges shines new light on the politics of healthcare for the poor, demonstrating how the "medicalization" of social problems reproduces racial stereotypes and governs the bodies of poor women of color.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94944-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. IX-XII)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Diana, Yessica, and Evelyn—all physician assistants, or Patient Care Associates (PCAs)—are chatting in one of the nurses’ triage rooms during a lull in a typically chaotic day in the “Alpha” Women’s Health Clinic. Diana, an outspoken, funny young woman of Haitian parentage who has been working for over six months in the clinic as a temporary employee, sits on an examination table and plays with the creases in her uniform. On the other side of the cramped space, touching up her carefully applied makeup, sits Yessica, thirty-five and Dominican Republic-born, who has been working at Alpha for close...

  5. PART ONE CLASS

    • ONE Alpha Hospital: Unique, But Not Singular
      (pp. 21-40)

      George Washington was only a toddler when Alpha Hospital first opened its doors in the early eighteenth century (Opdycke 1999). Since then, Alpha has become arguably the best public hospital in the country. It is one of the few places in the nation where poor people have access to first-rate, outstanding health care. Indeed, the hospital is one of the most widely recognized medical institutions in the United States. The programs it provides top several lists: emergency medicine, neurology/neurosurgery, cardiovascular medicine, nursing, and, most notoriously, psychiatry. Alpha’s reputation as a psychiatric hospital par excellence may be due to its counting...

    • TWO Pregnancy, Medicaid, State Regulation, and Legal Subjection
      (pp. 41-73)

      For my first weeks in the Alpha obstetrics clinic, my “field” appeared to me as a swirl of bodies barely contained by a space that struggled (and frequently failed) to maintain an air of sterility and restraint. However, over time, patterns began to emerge. I learned the bodies could be dichotomized into categories of “patient” and “employee.” Of the “patient” bodies, some were “obstetric patients” and some were “gynecology patients”; some sought abortions and others infertility services; some were “medically high risk” and would be seen by doctors specializing in maternal-fetal medicine, and others were “low risk” and would be...

    • THREE The Production of Unruly Bodies
      (pp. 74-100)

      In Chapter 2, I demonstrated that attempting prenatal care with the assistance of state aid coerces poor women into an expansive state regulatory apparatus that far exceeds the purview of that care. In this chapter, I suggest that this attempt produces the bodies of poor women, as a class, as problematic entities in a distinctly medicalized sense. That is, the state, through the vigorous, intensely scientific, and excessive program of prenatal care it requires physicians, nurse practitioners, and midwives to give to Medicaid recipients, produces poor, pregnant women as possessors of unruly bodies.

      A brief note: there might be a...

  6. PART TWO RACE

    • FOUR The “Primitive Pelvis,” Racial Folklore, and Atavism in Contemporary Forms of Medical Disenfranchisement
      (pp. 103-143)

      I first met shauntay johnson in the Alpha WHC as she waited for her appointment in the High Risk Clinic. In those first few minutes of meeting her, she struck me as a nice, pleasant woman with a great sense of humor. I immediately asked her if she would like to participate in my study by sitting down with me for an in-depth interview. She seemed happy to agree, and we talked for the next hour-and-a-half about everything that came to mind.

      Shauntay, a pretty, twenty-four-year-old Black woman who had lived in Harlem all of her life, was twenty-nine weeks...

    • FIVE The Curious Case of the “Alpha Patient Population”
      (pp. 144-200)

      On one sunny day in the spring months, when I was rapidly finishing up my first year of conducting fieldwork at Alpha, I sat in a courtyard outside of the hospital and chatted at length with Odette Carter, a genetic counselor who had worked in Alpha’s obstetrics clinic for close to two years. Odette told colorful stories about her Alpha patients and those at the private practice where she split her time. Her job at both locations was to provide information to women whose initial blood screenings had revealed the possibility of a genetic anomaly in their fetuses or whose...

    • SIX Wily Patients, Welfare Queens, and the Reiteration of Race
      (pp. 201-250)

      After finally receiving authorization to begin my fieldwork from all relevant Institutional Review Boards (IRBs), well over a year after I began the approval process, I was eager to begin observation of the Alpha Women’s Health Clinic (WHC). Dr. Christina Smith, my direct supervisor in the hospital, suggested that I introduce my research and myself to the clinic staff at the clinic’s monthly interdisciplinary meeting. Accordingly, my fieldwork began with my describing my project (within the five minutes allotted to me) to a motley assemblage of nurses, doctors, midwives, and administrative assistants who drifted in and out of the classroom...

  7. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 251-258)

    Two years after i had concluded my research in Alpha Hospital, I received a voice mail from Rosa, a patient I met when I first began fieldwork there in the spring of 2005. Back then she had just turned forty and was about five months pregnant with her third child. Her oldest son, Victor, was twenty, and he, like Rosa, occupied the precarious status of being an undocumented immigrant in the United States; her sixteen-year-old daughter had remained in Ecuador. Rosa’s third pregnancy had proceeded without complications, and she later gave birth to a healthy and beautiful baby girl. In...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 259-272)
  9. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 273-286)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 287-293)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 294-294)