Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, University of California at Los Angeles
2018 to 2019
Being and Becoming a Midwife in 18th century France: Pedagogical Practices and Objects
Concerns over a perceived population crisis and a neo-Hippocratic commitment to the social and physical environment as sources of both health and disease resulted in childbirth becoming a site for widespread governmental and medical intervention in eighteenth century France. Rhetoric blaming “incompetent” rural midwives justified expanding government- or church-funded provincial training courses. Augmenting published books, a variety of unexplored sources—such as surveys, student notes, advertisements, textbooks, marginalia, and objects including mannequins and instruments—enables my project to investigate the role of objects and practices in knowledge creation, transmission, and gendered professional demarcation in midwifery training courses. After shedding light on hidden actors, I argue that the French government and medical institutions sought to integrate midwifery into the medical establishment, not eliminate the practice, challenging the simplified, Anglo-centric narrative of male usurpation of the female domain of midwifery.
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