Lauren Noël Marsh
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationPittsburgh, U. of
Grant numberGr. 10135
Approve DateApril 8, 2021
Project TitleMarsh , Lauren (Pittsburgh, U. of) "Laboring for Reproductive Justice: Doula Care in Carceral Spaces"
LAUREN MARSH, then a graduate student at University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, received a grant in April 2021 to aid research on “Laboring for Reproductive Justice: Doula Care in Carceral Spaces,” supervised by Dr. Tomas Matza. A growing number of doulas/birthworkers in the United States are working to provide “non-medical” perinatal support for incarcerated pregnant/postpartum people while drawing attention to their unmet needs and experiences in settings of deprivation and violence. Doulas argue that prison birth is deeply connected to broader patterns of reproductive injustice and social oppression. They are seldom employed by biomedical or carceral institutions, and must justify both their access and the value of their care. This project uses prison/jail doula programs as a critical ethnographic case study to understand how liminal caregivers pursue social justice goals inside and outside of structurally violent institutions. It asks: 1) how do doulas care for incarcerated pregnant people in settings where they have limited authority? 2) How do they navigate tensions between professionalization, institutional access, and advocacy on behalf of clients? And 3) if prison doulas argue that intervening during the perinatal period (“physical reproduction”) helps challenge broader patterns of social marginalization (“social reproduction”), how might that happen? How might prison doula care impact not just individuals, but families, communities, and/or institutions? Wenner-Gren support enabled three phases of fieldwork in the larger dissertation project with doula programs in a county jail and three state prisons.