Monday, October 18, 2021
12:00pm – 1:00pm
Virtual event, register here.
A core component of CSREA’s mission is supporting faculty and advanced students in the development of cutting-edge, collaborative intellectual work. The “What I Am Thinking About Now” series provides a collegial, productive workshop space for faculty and graduate students to present and discuss recently published work and work in progress. Scholars test ideas and receive feedback from a diverse and supportive group of scholars on Mondays throughout the semester.
“Bad Pelvises”: Mexican Obstetrics and the Re-affirmation of Race in Labor and Delivery
Sarah Williams, Louise Lamphere Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies
This chapter links the historical development of gynecology and obstetrics in Mexico, a nationalist project termed tocología Mexicana, to contemporary patterns of overutilization of surgical medical interventions during birth. In so doing, it unwinds racial myths about Mexican women’s pelvises and their ability to birth naturally, myths that continue to influence obstetric decision-making in the present day.
First, I trace the emergence of pelvimetry and gynecology in mid-1800s Mexico as a form of race science, harnessed in service of the creation of a Mexican national identity predicated on a project of race-making and Indigenous erasure. Building on this historical analysis, I use ethnographic data from fieldwork in the Yucatán peninsula to connect these race-making obstetric practices to the hallmarks of obstetric violence in Mexico today—the routine use of techniques of obstetric management that manifest in burgeoning rates of C-section and episiotomy, and the continued use of pelvimetric practices by both obstetricians and midwives. As my ethnographic research shows, medical practitioners continue to draw on implicit and, at times, explicit theories of race science to justify often unnecessary birth interventions and to uphold normative racialized framings of maternal comportment.
Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America