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Dream birth or birth trauma? To the new discomfort at birth

Local cooperation partner: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Stephan Moebius, Institute of Sociology
Junior Fellow: Franziska Marek

Incoming Senior Fellow: Dr. Sabine Flick, Institute of Sociology, Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main
Incoming Junior Fellows: Friederike Hesse

Period: September 2020 to August 2021
Symposium: November 2020


For a few years now, activists* of the so-called "Roses Revolution" have been active against obstetric violence in Europe. They refer to experiences of disrespectful behaviour and unjustified treatment up to physical abuse which women experience during childbirth. While the WHO has already published a statement on this subject, the discussions about 'Black Birthing Justice' in the USA point to racist structures also in obstetrics and in some Latin American countries obstetric violence is even already being negotiated as a legal object, the debate in Europe has only just begun.

Interestingly, the European discussion, particularly in German, focuses strongly on the psychological aspects of the experience of obstetric violence. Mothers, doulas and midwives describe traumatic experiences during childbirth and derive subsequent problems with breastfeeding, depression and attachment problems with the infant from these traumas. Against the background of critiques of current conditions under birth, the joint project investigates which social and cultural processes of change in birth are effective from a gender-theoretical perspective. Conceptions of normality with regard to the experiences of birth seem to shift towards a charging of birth with claims to self-realization and thus a shift to birth as a project. The experience of birth is charged as a quasi transcendent experience and thus becomes a biographical event. This enormous charge of the birth event could possibly contribute to the idealized process being contrasted by the real clinical experience and possibly disappointed, which is then experienced as traumatic and/or violent. This development includes a paradoxical simultaneity of the increase in the autonomy of pregnant women and women giving birth, in terms of freedom of choice and possibilities to give birth, with their simultaneous sensitization. The project wants to investigate this change in experience, articulation and the concrete conditions for childbirth.

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