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Rakhi Ghoshal

Published writing:

A narrative of the experiences of birthing, ‘Ekhane Sondhye Derite Naame’ (Dusk descends late at this place) in Bangla, published in the annual journal on contemporary social and philosophical theories, Tepantar, in 2011 Kolkata Book Fair.

Article ‘Hands-on learning in Medicine’ submitted to EPW.

Conferences/workshops attended: (between July 2010 and June 2011)

Attended a 15 day residential summer school ‘The Idea of Justice’, (July 1 to July 15, 2010) organised by Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities, Manipal University;

Attended and presented a paper at the Third National Bioethics Conference, 2010, AIIMS, New Delhi, organised by Indian Journal of Medical Ethics (IJME) and Centre for Studies in Ethics and Rights (CSER), November 17 – 20, 2010, on the theme Governance of Healthcare: ethics, equity and justice;

Attended and participated in the 7th International Post Graduate Certificate course in Health and Human Rights, organised by Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT) and University of  Mumbai, January 10 – 19, 2011;

Attended and participated in a three-day intensive workshop on Qualitative Research Methodology orgainsed by faculty at CSER, February 16 – 18, 2011;

Will attend a one day seminar on Qualitative Research Using NVivo 9, on June 29th, 2011.

Projects handled: (between July 2010 and June 2011)

On September 1st, 2010 I joined as research officer at the research organisation, Centre for Studies in Ethics and Rights, (CSER), Mumbai, to work as Project-In-Charge of a study on obstetric ethics, titled ‘Obstetric Care in Mumbai, an Ethical Analysis’, a two-year study funded by Wellcome Trust, U.K. Currently we have completed the fieldwork for the project and are now in the process of data coding and analysis and writing of papers. The project will end in March 2012.

Thesis Title: Experience, Knowledge and Ethics of Birthing

Thesis summary: This thesis is an attempt to understand the experience and ethics of birthing and to engage with the knowledge of birthing produced thereof. In India childbirth has remained the overdetermined site of multiple discourses; yet, as shall be demonstrated through the literature survey, certain significant lacunae have continued to haunt, and it is those that this thesis hopes to identify and address. Birthing experience in India is affected by a schism – to talk of extremes, post the privatisation of the Indian healthcare market (1990s), the number of cesarean-sections has shot up, infertility-conceptions and surrogacy are on a high, and Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) have created a niche market for an elite pocket. Parallel to this, there continues to exist what I would call a ‘subaltern space of birthing’, where childbirth is attended to by the dai, who in turn is either tried to be obliterated by the state or cajoled into the mainstream by NGOs and the World Health Organisation. However, there is also a third space that forms a hyphen between these two. Here, the un-affording woman is lured by incentives into the modern space of obstetric care; she eventually gets trapped (the mainstream would like to call it ‘included’) within the panopticon of the state’s ideological apparatuses.

In trying to map a picture of birthing experience in India, there have been ethnographic accounts of what the birthing-woman undergoes in the labour room. While that is a much required first step of shoring up what the birthing-woman undergoes during childbirth, one cannot stop at there. And also, much of these concerns and accounts have focussed either on the lack of access to care and facilities or lack of proper behaviour of the medical staff. As if, the experience of the woman giving birth can only be measured and arrived at through an understanding and measuring of the smooth delivery of the medical system. Can birthing experience be thought beyond of this, and different from this? The thesis hopes to arrive at the ethics of birthing. The turn to the ethical is deemed important – both from the standpoint of the modern discourse of human rights and also from that of gender politics.

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