Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Labor of Care: Spectacular Fetuses, Healthy, Smart Babies, And Cosmopolitan Pregnancy in Middle Class Beijing

  • Author(s): Higgins, Anna Moore
  • Advisor(s): Rofel, Lisa B
  • et al.

In early 21st Century Beijing, in the context of the One Child Policy and the developing market economy, middle class women undertook extraordinary measures to have children of the highest possible quality. A baby making industry, comprising private maternity hospitals, providers of prenatal nutrition, imported formula, and supplements, emerged. Women used taijiao, or fetal education, fetal testing and myriad forms of pregnancy management as part of a project of having the smartest, healthiest baby possible. Based on two years of fieldwork in reproductive contexts in Beijing, this dissertation seeks to untangle the complicated relationship between reproduction, state population policies, parents, fetuses, and babies. It argues that the caring labor of hospital workers, sometimes categorized as immaterial, is in fact very much material, in that it creates particular kinds of persons, and that the materiality of this labor demonstrates that material and immaterial are not useful categories. It considers the “non-spectacular” tools of patient education and fetal education alongside spectacular tools of visualization. It argues that technologically assisted reproduction is not exceptional, but rather is on a spectrum with more everyday tools and techniques for influencing pregnancy, such as low-tech educational equipment, stories and metaphors, and fetal education. The dissertation argues that emergent practices of reproduction, specifically the simultaneous use of taijiao and fetal testing, especially the ultrasound, are producing new kinds of fetal personhood, a partial personhood wherein a fetus is both a person and not a person.

Main Content
Current View