No Alternative: Childbirth, Citizenship, and Indigenous Culture in Mexico (Louann Atkins Temple Women & Culture)
Recent anthropological scholarship on “new midwifery” centers on how professional midwives in various countries are helping women reconnect with “nature,” teaching them to trust in their bodies, respecting women’s “choices,” and fighting for women’s right to birth as naturally as possible. In No Alternative, Rosalynn A. Vega uses ethnographic accounts of natural birth practices in Mexico to complicate these narratives about new midwifery and illuminate larger questions of female empowerment, citizenship, and the commodification of indigenous culture, by showing how alternative birth actually reinscribes traditional racial and gender hierarchies.
Vega contrasts the vastly different birthing experiences of upper-class and indigenous Mexican women. Upper-class women often travel to birthing centers to be delivered by professional midwives whose methods are adopted from and represented as indigenous culture, while indigenous women from those same cultures are often forced by lack of resources to use government hospitals regardless of their preferred birthing method. Vega demonstrates that women’s empowerment, having a “choice,” is a privilege of those capable of paying for private medical services—albeit a dubious privilege, as it puts the burden of correctly producing future members of society on women’s shoulders. Vega’s research thus also reveals the limits of citizenship in a neoliberal world, as indigeneity becomes an object of consumption within a transnational racialized economy.
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