Bloodlust: a postcolonial sociology of childbirth

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This paper examines intersections between ethnocentric and androcentric desire. To that end it employs a broadly postcolonial analysis of the medicalisation of birth and of women. The paper explores an ambivalence characterised by a simultaneous lust for and loathing of the other through engaging with postcolonial discourse analysis, and it ties those impulses to an imperative of control and to an administration of the other's affairs. That imperative and those impulses represent a point at which the logic of patriarchy and the logic of colonialism converge, and that point is one around which the social production of material disadvantage and negative outcomes can be explored. In the service of modern paradigms of progress and development, both colonial discourses and medical discourses underpin material relationships with the other. Whether that other is racialised or gendered, the manifest result of those relationships is the production of outcomes which are sub-optimal and pernicious in effect, and which result in a material insufficiency in the discursively produced other. The process of colonising childbirth reproduces the material effects of colonial subjectivity within a highly ambivalent and deeply imperialistic encounter. An exploration of that process demonstrates a link between power, paternalism and poor outcomes which highlights a space for self-determination in the optimisation of health and wellbeing amongst members of population groups which are vulnerable to the representations and interests of administrative power.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-535
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Identities: Journal for the study of race, nation and culture
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • childbirth
  • desire
  • discourse sociology
  • pathologisation
  • postcolonial


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