Cyborg embodiment Women, technology, and power in American obstetrics
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Studies of reproduction remain a primary focus in feminist theories and analyses from a range of disciplines. Through this scholarship, we have been given an understanding of the subjugated and objectified pregnant woman currently articulated through the modern technological system of prenatal care. Yet, we are left without a strategy to critically engage with the medical institution and technological advancements in reproduction to reclaim an embodied subject status in maternity and facilitate better maternity care practices within American obstetrics. Cyborg embodiment, the primary theoretical contribution of this study, offers a necessary intervention into feminist theories of corporeality in pregnancy and childbirth and can re-center women’s experience and subject status in modern U.S. maternity care. Donna Haraway’s figure of the cyborg is used to show that prenatal embodiment is a fusion of the “natural body” and the “technological body.” This blurring of boundaries is understood as a strategy for resistance against alienation and the patriarchal power of the medical institution. Using theories from feminist science and technology studies, this study propels an argument for the re-development of the technological system of childbirth with women configured as the primary users. Interviews with six women about their birth experiences are analyzed for their depiction of the current cultural constructions of maternity and the potential of cyborg embodiment. This study can be used as a blueprint for all participants within the technologized system of maternity care to facilitate improved obstetric practice and, subsequently, better outcomes and experiences of childbirth for American women.