Birth in Four Cultures: A Crosscultural Investigation of Childbirth in Yucatan, Holland, Sweden, and the United States by Brigitte  Jordan, Robbie  Davis-Floyd
235 pages, $28.95 list
0-88133-717-X
978-0-88133-717-4
Birth in Four Cultures
A Crosscultural Investigation of Childbirth in Yucatan, Holland, Sweden, and the United States
Fourth Edition
While the process of childbirth is, in some sense, everywhere the same, it is also everywhere different in that each culture has produced a birthing system that is strikingly dissimilar from the others. Based on her fieldwork in the United States, Sweden, Holland, and Yucatan, Jordan develops a framework for the discussion and investigation of different birthing systems. Illustrated with useful examples and lively anecdotes from Jordan’s own fieldwork, the Fourth Edition of this innovative comparative ethnography brings the reader to a deeper understanding of childbirth as a culturally grounded, biosocially mediated, and interactionally achieved event.
Reviews
“I am using this as part of my Cultures, Pregnancy and Birth class as it is still the seminal volume in cross-cultural studies of birth.” — Erica Gibson, University of South Carolina

“Jordan’s work is not only a landmark crosscultural study of childbearing, but also an insightful analysis of methodological issues in anthropology. . . . Brigitte Jordan is midwife to the anthropology of childbirth.” — Robert A. Hahn, Emory University

“The original edition of Birth in Four Cultures signaled a new level of detailed empirical investigation into birth as a sociocultural process. This edition carries this investigation even farther, contrasting the ecological embeddedness of indigenous birth practices and modes of learning with the exploration of Western high technology and modes of teaching.” — Rayna Rapp, New School for Social Research
Table of Contents
Part I: CHILDBIRTH IN BIOSOCIAL, CROSSCULTURAL PERSPECTIVE

1. A Biosocial Framework for the Crosscultural Comparison of Childbirth Practices
Obstacles to Crosscultural Comparison / Lack of Data / Narrow Data / The Framework Dilemma / The Fieldwork Sequence / Anthropological Participation / Preview of Book

2. Buscando La Forma: An Ethnography of Contemporary Maya Childbirth in Yucatan
The Ethnographic Record / Fieldwork Conditions / The Birth Setting / Prenatal Care / The Birth Event / The Postpartum Period

3. The Crosscultural Comparison of Birthing Systems Toward a Biosocial Analysis
Birth in the United States, Holland, and Sweden: An Overview / Biosocial Features of Birth /The Cultural Definitions of Birth /Preparation for Birth / Attendants and Support Systems / Birth Territory / The Use of Medication in Childbirth / The Technology of Birth / The Locus of Decision-Making

4. Fieldwork in Four Cultures: Methods and Experience
Beginning Fieldwork / First Contact / Gaining Access to Hospital Births / Asking the Women / The Technologies of Data Gathering / The Anthropological “Interview” / Expectations / Tape Recording the “Interview” / Why We Need a Visual Record / Advantages of Audiovisual Data Gathering: A Summary / Disadvantages of Mechanical Data Recording / Dilemmas and Interference / Women and Birth Research

5. Birthing Systems and Change
Systemic Structure and Systematic Justification The “Moral Requiredness” of Systems / Belief in Technical Superiority / The Nature of Evidence/ Birthing Systems and Change in Developing Countries / Macro-Constraints on Change Strategies / Mutual Accommodation: A Biosocial Framework for Planning Change / Non-Reciprocal “Upgrading” / The Standard Model for Change / An Alternate Model for Change / Evaluation from the Maya Point of View / Mutual Accommodation: A Biosocial Framework for Planning Change / The Shape of Things to Come: Birth in the United States /The Shape of Things to Come

Part II: AUTHORITATIVE KNOWLEDGE IN CHILDBIRTH

6. The Achievement of Authoritative Knowledge in an American Hospital Birth
Authoritative Knowledge / The Data / The Setting / The Story of This Birth / Access to Technology and the Hierarchical Distribution of Knowledge / The Medical Staff as Gatekeepers / The Status of the Woman’s Knowledge / Staging the Physician’s Performance / Participation Structures in the Labor Room / Some Thoughts About the Design of Labor Ecologies


7. Modes of Teaching and Learning: Pedagogy and the Construction of Authoritative Knowledge
Generic Problems in Training Courses / The Instructional Impasse / The Tools of the Trade / Evaluation of the Effects of Training Courses / Differing Worldviews / Differing Modes of Knowledge Acquisition: Experiential and Didactic / Evolutionary and Historical Perspectives / Characteristics of the Apprenticeship Mode

8. Cosmopolitical Obstetrics: Technology and the Social Distribution of Authoritative Knowledge
Generic Problems in the Interaction of Indigenous and Western Obstetric Systems / Obstetric Technology and Its Consequences / Levels of Technology / Technology and Physiology / Technology and Social Interaction / Ownership of Artifacts and Distribution of Authoritative Knowledge / Use Value and Symbolic Value of Technology / The Bias Toward Upscaling / The Diffusion of Artifacts and Procedures / Technology and Cosmopolitics