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CHID 496 F: Focus Groups

Meeting Time: 
Th 1:30pm - 3:20pm
PCAR 492
Maya Smith

Focus Group Description

Class Title: Birth on the Margins: Reproductive Justice and the Politics of Birth
Student Faciliator: Fiona Stefanik, Klarissa Sell (
Supervised by: Maya Smith

“Birth on the Margins” is a focus group intended to bring to light the breadth of reproductive experience, particularly those that receive little or negative attention in political, popular, and medical discourse.  While we recognize that any one of the topics we are proposing to look at over the course of a ten-week quarter could easily field its own focus group, our intent is to provide a sweeping view of the landscape of reproduction.  However, all of these topics are necessarily bound together, particularly as they pertain to broader goals of social justice.  Therefore, we feel that it will be a more pragmatic use of our time to consider a wide range of reproductive experience to unearth how many social justice issues are intimately connected to reproduction.

Our guiding questions for the focus group are:

1. What is reproductive justice and how can a reproductive justice framework shift our understanding of the most pressing social and political issues of our time?

2. How can an understanding of how reproductive ideas emerge, change, get challenged and reinforced be useful in considering the urgent political questions of our times regarding reproductive rights and resources in the United States?

3. Why are certain realities made visible in medical, popular, political discourse and how do these realities shape expectations?  Stated differently, why do certain statistics and measurements count and how do these statistics shape social norms?

Learning Goals:

By the end of the quarter, students should:

1. Have a working, multidimensional definition of reproductive justice

2. Gain an increased awareness of current events and debates pertaining to reproduction occurring in the United States

3. Be able to explain the relevance of a reproductive justice framework within various academic disciplines, social movements, and their own lives

Topics and (Some) Proposed Readings:

1. Reproductive Justice

2. Doulas and Midwifery

  • Su May Lee, Amy and Maggie Kirkman: 2008  Disciplinary Discourses: Rates of Cesarean Section Explained by Medicine, Midwifery, and Feminism. Health Care for Women International 29(5):448-467.

3. Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Abortion

4. Birth and Cesarean

  • Hunter, Lauren P.: 2006  Women Give Birth and Pizzas are Delivered: Language and Western Childbirth Paradigms.  Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health 51(2): 119-123.
  • Beckett, Katherine: 2005  Choosing Cesarean: Feminism and the politics of childbirth in the United States. Feminist Theory vol. 6(3): 251-275.

5. Breastfeeding

 6. Maternal Mental Health

 7. Forced Sterilization and Birth Control Policies

  • Smith, Andrea: 2005  “Better Dead than Pregnant:” The Colonization of Native Womens’ Reproductive Health.” Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide.
  • Stern, Alexandra Minna: 2011  From Legislation to Lived Experience: Eugenic Sterilization in California and Indiana, 1907-79.  In A Century of Eugenics in America: From the Indiana Experiment to the Human Genome Era. Paul Lombardo, ed.  Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

 8. Criminalization of Pregnancy and Birth

9. Trans* and Queer Birth

  • Park, Shelley: 2013  Introduction: Mothering Queerly, Queering Motherhood.  In Mothering queerly, queering motherhood: resisting monomaternalism in adoptive, lesbian, blended, and polygamous families. Albany : State University of New York Press.
  • Park, Shelley: 2013  Querying a Straight Orientation: Becoming a Mother (Twice, Differently).  In Mothering queerly, queering motherhood resisting monomaternalism in adoptive, lesbian, blended, and polygamous families. Albany : State University of New York Press.

 10. Homeless and Youth Reproductive Experiences

 11.  Politics of Maternity Care

Catalog Description: 
Credit/no-credit only.
Last updated: 
April 28, 2016 - 9:11am