Accepted paper:

State neglect of sharing: women’s shared reproductive experience in Tuscany, Italy


Michaela Wallerstedt (Southern Methodist University)

Paper short abstract:

While Italian state officials seek to improve maternal health outcomes, women’s desire for a shared experience in childbirth goes unacknowledged as an important aspect of women’s positive experiences in pregnancy and childbirth.

Paper long abstract:

Pregnancy can be a difficult time for many women, but these emotional challenges are often undervalued by state officials who design maternal health guidelines aimed at improving cesarean section rates throughout the country. Through the use of statistical data and clinical trials from outside of Italy, state officials create a universal reproductive body, the goal of which is to provide the foundation for a healthcare model that can be applied anywhere. In reality, the model ignores important local realities that shape women’s maternity care experiences. State level guidelines suggest that women can make appropriate healthcare decisions only when they are informed and do not fear childbirth. The reality, however, is that women do not crave information but an avenue to share their experiences. While the Tuscan government offers informational classes for free, the women’s goal in attending these classes is not to gain information, but to find expectant mothers and midwives to share their experiences. These classes facilitate the further sharing of experiential knowledge outside of the classroom through the creation group chat in the messaging app WhatsApp. The ability for women to share these experiences becomes indispensable especially after pregnancy, when women notice a severe decrease in the amount of support offered by the state to new mothers. Through 18 months of ethnographic research on maternity care in Florence, Italy, I show how women’s shared experiences supports state goals even while these activities go unacknowledged by the state.

panel P018
The sharing economy: sharing with whom, sharing what and sharing for what purpose?