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The place of birth: childbearing and kinship in Calcutta middle-class families

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Hospital births were introduced to India during the colonial period but became a popular option during the 1960s. Today they have replaced "traditional" home birth among the urban middle classes, and a significant proportion of hospital births are elective Caesarean sections. In this article I examine this mode of birth in the context of specific marital and residential patterns and cross-generational accounts of birth among middle-class women in Calcutta. By paying close attention to affinal relations and the meaning of kinship for birthing women, I challenge assumptions regarding the positive aspects of previous, less medicalized, modes of birth and explore how the shift towards Caesarean sections does not merely signify an unquestioning acceptance of an alienating allopathic regime. The ethnographic accounts of different experiences of childbirth show that the medicalization of childbirth should be situated within the context of wider kin and class relations that affect women's choice and their sense of agency.

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/25837/

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