The (In)Active Body Multiple: An Examination of How Prenatal Exercise ‘Matters’

  • Shannon JetteEmail author
  • Katelyn Esmonde


Over the past decade, any cautions there have been that physical activity might negatively impact the fetus, in part by limiting fetal size, have shifted towards optimism that prenatal exercise can help women gain less weight in pregnancy, reduce fetal size, and prevent childhood obesity. The result has been a growing emphasis on the risk of inactivity during pregnancy, even though scientific evidence about the impact of exercise on fetal growth is inconclusive. In this chapter, we use tools from the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) to foreground materiality in our feminist inquiry of the gendered politics of knowledge production about prenatal exercise. Drawing on Mol’s (The body multiple: Ontology in medical practice. Duke University Press, Durham and London, 2002) concept of the body multiple, which demonstrates how multiple body ontologies are performed in healthcare contexts via a range of material and technical practices, we outline two combined practices mobilized to make the risk of physical inactivity ‘matter’ in the contemporary moment, namely the privileging of the over-nutrition hypothesis and a linear model of causality. In doing so, we draw attention to the network of relations that enact this singular version of prenatal exercise risk. We conclude with a discussion of how which body ontology takes shape—of the multiple possible—is a political process.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA

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