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Colonial Modernities : Midwifery in Bengal, c.1860-1947 (Hardcover) (Ambalika Guha)

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The subject of medicalization of childbirth in colonial India has so far been identified with three major themes: the attempt to reform or ‘sanitize’ the site of birthing practices, establishing lying-in hospitals, and replacing traditional birth attendants with trained midwives and qualified female doctors.

This book, part of the series ‘The Social History of Health and Medicine in South Asia', looks at the interactions between childbirth and midwifery practices and colonial modernities. Taking eastern India as a case study and related research from other areas, with hard empirical data from local government bodies, municipal corporations and district boards, it goes beyond the conventional narrative to show how the late-nineteenth century initiatives to reform birthing practices were essentially a modernist response of the western educated colonized middle class to the colonial critique of Indian socio-cultural codes. It provides a perceptive historical analysis of how institutionalization of midwifery was shaped by the debates on the women’s question, nationalism and colonial public health policies, all intersecting in the inter-war years. The study traces the beginning of medicalization of childbirth, the professionalization of obstetrics, the agency of male doctors, inclusion of midwifery as an academic subject in medical colleges, and consequences on maternal care and infant welfare.

This book will greatly interest scholars and researchers in history, social medicine, public policy, gender studies, and South Asian studies.

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