Accepted Paper:

Knowledge of pregnancy and economies of care in Vanuatu  

Author:

Sandra Widmer (York University)

Paper short abstract:

Can forms of care interrupt biopolitics? How are forms of expertise asserted in economies of care? I examine non biomedical forms of care that women in Vanuatu seek out during pregnancy and situate them in forms of power and authority both biopolitical and otherwise.

Paper long abstract:

Can forms of care interrupt biopolitics? How are forms of expertise asserted in economies of care? The medicalization of pregnancy has been a central concern for critiquing the expansion of biomedical and biopolitical power over women's bodies. Despite attempts to foster medical institutions- by ni-Vanuatu and a variety of practitioners and administrators- the infrastructures to support those medical modernities were always inadequate. This paper examines non biomedical forms of care that women in Vanuatu seek out and participate in during pregnancy and situates them in forms of power and authority both biopolitical and otherwise. While the lack of infrastructure means that birth is at least partially medicalized and pregnancy is not in Vanuatu, this paper argues in addition that the forms of knowledge and practice that constitute pregnancy care can both be shaped by and subvert biopolitics. Contextualized against a colonial and missionary past, where medicine was explicitly used to gain authority, this paper examines the significance of ni-Vanuatu women's health knowledge as part of an economy of care and the assertion of alternate authority.

Panel RM-SPK01
By whose authority: investigating alternative modes of power and the legitimization of expertise