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Choreographing Childbirth: Tactics and Techniques of Motherhood

  • Author(s): Stahl-Kovell, Kate Nicole
  • Advisor(s): Kraut, Anthea
  • et al.

Choreographing Childbirth: Tactics and Techniques of Motherhood is the first dance studies analysis of childbirth and gestational parenthood. This study combines ethnography and choreographic analysis of twenty-one Southern Californian mothers’ childbearing journeys during the latter part of the 2010s. By focusing on the mothers’ learned techniques of the body, I highlight the tensions of embodying pregnancy, birth, and post-partum amidst overarching technocratic medical choreographies. Current childbirth scholarship highlights how the U.S. maternal health care’s system treats the woman’s body as a vessel or dis-embodied machine that produces babies—this dissertation examines how mothers respond to, evade, and go along with maternal health medical choreographies.

I pivot to highlight how pregnant parents employ choreographic tactics using specific techniques of the body in order to embody motherhood under the umbrella of the medical industrial complex’s regulations and surveillance, complicating the idea that control systems such as the hospital produce docile bodies. Drawing from Andre Lepecki’s ideas of choreopolice and choreopolitics, I use ethnography and choreographic analysis to reveal how the mothers in this study deliberately learn and employ techniques of the body throughout pregnancy, birth, and post-partum to activate their own autonomy while they are simultaneously caught up in larger structures of inequity. I demonstrate how the participants in this study proactively adapt to set choreographies of care while interweaving their own, illuminating the greater complexity of the politics of power, control, agency, and knowledge at the site of the maternal body.

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