Bodies: Exploring Fluid Boundaries

Bodies: Exploring Fluid Boundaries

Bodies: Exploring Fluid Boundaries

Bodies: Exploring Fluid Boundaries

Synopsis

Pregnant bodies in public places, men's bodies in domestic bathrooms and managers' bodies in the workplace, are some of the bodies this text examines to show how bodies and spaces are socially constructed yet material.

Excerpt

Pregnant women in public space are often constructed as ‘matter out of place’ (Douglas 1966:35). In this chapter I draw on the earlier discussion of abjection to further understanding of a group of women who were pregnant for the first time and living in Hamilton, New Zealand (see Longhurst 1995a, 1998). Pregnant women are thought to threaten and disrupt a social system that requires them to remain largely confined to private space during pregnancy. They can be seen to occupy a borderline state as they disturb identity, system and order by not respecting borders, positions and rules. Some work which links pregnancy and abjection has already been carried out. Oliver (1993), for example, in Reading Kristeva discusses ‘the abject mother’. Jan Pilgrim (1993) uses Kristeva’s concept of the abject to examine representations of the naked pregnant body. I utilise Young’s notion of ‘ugly bodies’ by examining the possibility that pregnant bodies are sometimes constructed, both by pregnant women themselves and by others, as ugly.

Over a period of approximately two years - May 1992 through to July 1994 - I talked with 31 women who were pregnant for the first time and living in Hamilton, New Zealand (see Table 3.1). Hamilton is a city of 132,104 people (Census of Population and Dwellings 1996) - the fourth-largest city in the country. It is located to the west in the northern half of the North Island of New Zealand. Hamilton is the major commercial and industrial centre servicing surrounding agricultural and pastoral land. The Waikato region has a population of approximately 350,000. The city and the outlying regions are serviced by the Waikato Women’s Hospital where 3,273 women gave birth in 1993. A very small proportion - estimated at between 2 and 5 per cent - of babies are born at home. Most of the buildings in Hamilton’s CBD are no more than six or seven storeys high, and roads and footpaths are reasonably wide and uncrowded (see Plate 3.1). This spatial form means that many people (but certainly not all, including pregnant women) find the city to be reasonably accessible. More than 80 per cent of ‘Hamiltonians’ are of Anglo-European descent, 11 per cent are Maori, the remaining 9 per cent is made up of a diverse range of many cultures including Asian, African and American.

I talked generally with women about their experiences of pregnancy. I asked

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