Pluralist risk cultures: the sociology of childbirth

Lane, Karen 2015, Pluralist risk cultures: the sociology of childbirth, Health risk and society, vol. 17, no. 5-6, pp. 349-367, doi: 10.1080/13698575.2015.1096326.

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Title Pluralist risk cultures: the sociology of childbirth
Author(s) Lane, Karen
Journal name Health risk and society
Volume number 17
Issue number 5-6
Start page 349
End page 367
Total pages 19
Publisher Taylor & Francis
Place of publication London, Eng
Publication date 2015
ISSN 1469-8331
Keyword(s) risk
risk cultures
maternity care
Summary Western medical approaches to childbirth typically locate risk in women’s bodies,making it axiomatic that ‘good’ maternity care is associated with medically trainedattendants. This logic has been extrapolated to developing societies, like Vanuatu, anIsland state in the Pacific, struggling to provide good maternity care in line with theWorld Health Organization’s Millennium Development Goals. These goals include thereduction of maternal mortality by two-thirds by 2015, but Vanuatu must overcomechallenging hurdles – medical, social and environmental – to achieve this goal.Vanuatu is a hybridised society: one where the pre-modern and modern coincide inparallel institutions, processes and practices. In 2010, I undertook an inductive study of30 respondents from four main subcultures – women living in outer rural communitieswith limited access to Western-trained health workers; women from inner urbancommunities with ease of access to medical clinics; traditional birth attendants whoare formally untrained but highly specialised and practised mainly in remote communities;and Western-trained medical clinicians (obstetricians and midwives). I invitedall the participants to comment on what constituted a ‘good birth’. In this article, Ishow that participants interpreted this variously according to how they believed theuncertainties of childbirth could be managed. Objectivist approaches that define risk asan objective reality amenable to quantifiable measurement are thus rendered inadequate.Interpretivist approaches better explain the reality that social actors not only findrisk in different sites but gravitate towards different practices, discourses and individualsthey can trust especially those with whom they feel a strong sense of community.Strategies are, therefore, formed less through scientific rationality but according tofeelings and emotions and the lived experience. The concept of risk cultures conveysthis complexity; they are formed around values rather than calculable rationalities. Riskcultures form self-reflexively to manage contingent circumstances.
Language eng
DOI 10.1080/13698575.2015.1096326
Field of Research 160899 Sociology not elsewhere classified
Socio Economic Objective 920208 Health Policy Evaluation
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2015, Taylor & Francis
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