Reproducing Race: An Ethnography of Pregnancy as a Site of Racialization

Reproducing Race: An Ethnography of Pregnancy as a Site of Racialization

Reproducing Race: An Ethnography of Pregnancy as a Site of Racialization

Reproducing Race: An Ethnography of Pregnancy as a Site of Racialization

Synopsis

Reproducing Race, an ethnography of pregnancy and birth at a large New York City public hospital, explores the role of race in the medical setting. Khiara M. Bridges investigates how race--commonly seen as biological in the medical world--is socially constructed among women dependent on the public healthcare system for prenatal care and childbirth. Bridges argues that race carries powerful material consequences for these women even when it is not explicitly named, showing how they are marginalized by the practices and assumptions of the clinic staff. Deftly weaving ethnographic evidence into broader discussions of Medicaid and racial disparities in infant and maternal mortality, Bridges shines new light on the politics of healthcare for the poor, demonstrating how the "medicalization" of social problems reproduces racial stereotypes and governs the bodies of poor women of color.

Excerpt

Diana, Yessica, and Evelyn—all physician assistants, or Patient Care Associates (PCAs)—are chatting in one of the nurses’ triage rooms during a lull in a typically chaotic day in the “Alpha” Women’s Health Clinic. Diana, an outspoken, funny young woman of Haitian parentage who has been working for over six months in the clinic as a temporary employee, sits on an examination table and plays with the creases in her uniform. On the other side of the cramped space, touching up her carefully applied makeup, sits Yessica, thirtyfive and Dominican Republic-born, who has been working at Alpha for close to five years. Evelyn, an older woman who had immigrated to the United States from Jamaica, and who has been a pca at Alpha for over a decade, leans against a chest of drawers, arms angrily folded over her chest. Evelyn has just finished escorting a patient to the physician for her examination. the patient, in the final months of her pregnancy, had complained loudly and persistently about the long time she had waited for her appointment that day.

The incident with that disagreeable patient has sparked a conversation among Diana, Yessica, and Evelyn about the “problem” with patients generally. Diana brushes a piece of lint off of her shirt and remarks, “They don’t even have good insurance. They come in here with their little lousy Medicaid and be the main ones raising up in the hallway.”

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