Michelle Rodriguez

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Princeton U.

Grant number

Gr. 10722

Approve Date

April 15, 2024

Project Title

Rodriguez, Michelle (Princeton U.) "The Art of Mothering"

This project focuses on the de-medicalized practices of a collective of Black midwives in Oakland, California, called The Art of Mothering. In response to the persistent increase in Black maternal and infant mortality rates in Alameda County, BIPOC birthworkers within this collective have taken the lead in implementing innovative approaches to issues related to reproductive justice, care, and public health. An example of this is the technique utilized by Art of Mothering, known as “centering.” Centering promotes a self-empowered approach to childbirth, emphasizing a deep understanding of the individual’s embodied experiences during prenatal, labor, and postpartum care. This approach valorizes the birthing person’s knowledge of their own body rather than deferring authority to medical professionals. Through archival research, surveys, interviews, and participant observation of birthwork in Oakland, I will develop an ethnographic account of how a diverse group of midwives, doulas, and birthing individuals mobilize embodied and de-medicalized care methods to combat the shortcomings of reproductive care services provided by the state. Drawing upon anthropological discussions surrounding reproductive governance, proprioception, and critical biocultural perspectives on the birthing body, I aim to examine how these intimate care practices mediate new forms of sociality and compassionate care in the context of childbirth.