Bade logon ki tarah: pregnant and poor in the city
Abstract This paper shores up the overdetermined web of fear-desire-helplessness-aspiration which impinges on the birthing experiences of women at the economic periphery of urbanity, i.e., the urban poor, positioned at the borders of the urban and its outside, affluence and its lack. The urban poor (pregnant) woman, by dint of being physically located in the city remains unable to be part of the state healthcare network in rural areas; at the same time she is marked by an inability to purchase healthcare from high-end urban private providers. Consequently, she is positioned in an in-between space of access and care, aspirations and resistance, occasionally getting (even physically) trapped in a limbo between the hospital/institution and its outside. For this woman, the materiality of the hospital symbolises development-modernity; in accessing the hospital, the urban poor woman accesses an ontology which is “like the well-off people,” the “legitimate” claimants of the city. Between her dreams of approximating the space of urbanity and development, and an experience of being pushed back to the city’s periphery—locationally and metaphorically, the urban poor woman gets inscribed by conflicting and counterpoised experiences of birthing, which is what this paper maps.
Keywords: Urban poor, Childbirth, Maternity/Labour wards, Experience, Aspirations, Development
Trained in literature, Rakhi Ghoshal has worked on a doctoral thesis in Cultural Studies, on the childbirth experiences of women located at the cusp of urbanity-rurality in the context of a Southern country, fragmented variously by the mandates and performances of a Northern, teleological model of development. The thesis is located at the interstices of philosophy, ethnography and archival history of the political contours of mid/late 19th century colonial-nationalist moves to institutionalize childbirth in India. The author also works in bioethics and medical humanities. Gender, reproductive health and medical ethics are her areas of interest and investment.