, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 195-223

Practices of the Pregnant Self: Compliance With and Resistance To Prenatal Norms

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Abstract

A major challenge of medical anthropology is to assess howbiomedicine, as a vaguely-defined set of diverse texts,technologies, and practitioners, shapes the experience of selfand body. Through narrative analyses of in-depth, semi-structuredinterviews with 158 pregnant women in southern California, thispaper explores how the culture of biomedicine, encounteredformally at prenatal care check-ups and informally throughdiverse media, influences pregnant women's perceptions ofappropriate prenatal behavior. In the spirit of recent socialscientific work that draws on and challenges Foucauldian insightsto explore social relations in medicine, we posit a spectrum ofcompliance and resistance to biomedical norms upon whichindividual prenatal practices are assessed. We suggest thatpregnancy is, above all, characterized by a split subjectivity inwhich women straddle the authoritative and the subjugated, theobjective and the subjective, and the haptic as well as theoptic, in telling and often strategic ways. In so doing, weidentify the intersection between the disciplinary practices ofbiomedicine and the practices of pregnant women as a means offurnishing more fruitful insights into the oft-used term ``power''and its roles in constituting social relations in medicine.