Margaret MacDonald
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Research Interests

I am a medical anthropologist specializing in gender and health with particular interests in women's reproductive health. My research expertise can be divided into two areas:

Midwifery in Canada
My 2007 book, At Work in the Field of Birth: Midwifery Narratives of Nature, Tradition and Home (Vanderbilt University Press), is an ethnographic account of contemporary midwifery in Ontario in the wake of its historic transition from the margins as a grassroots social movement to a profession in the public health care system in the 1990s. The book describes the contested place of this ‘new midwifery’ vis a vis its own foundational concepts of nature, tradition, and home as well as in relation to biomedical knowledge, institutions, and technologies. My theoretical focus in this work is the on going power of ‘the natural’ to orient the contemporary project of midwifery. 

Several new projects on the culture of midwifery are at various stages of development: Maternal Citizens and Midwifery Care considers the emergence of diversity as a new professional value and set of practices within midwifery; Midwifery as Consumption reads the commonplace (and politicized) reference to “midwifery consumers” through the lens of consumption theory and literature in medical anthropology that sees the pursuit of health as an “aesthetic project of the self”; and The Scientization of the Midwifery Body will follow midwives’ increasing participation in clinical research (as part of the trend towards evidence based medicine) and explore its impact on both the professional body of midwifery and the maternal bodies of the women in their care

International Reproductive Health
My research in this area traces the development of international policy since the 1980s to promote safe motherhood and reduce maternal mortality. Drawing on visual, documentary, and narrative data from key governmental, NGO and UN organizations, I am orienting this project around key debates and emerging tools in the effort to address maternal mortality in low resource settings: the controversial place of traditional birth attendants in maternal health; the production and uses of photography and film in international campaigns as affective, aesthetic information about maternal mortality; and the emergence of new biomedical-technical solutions embedded in feminist politics around reproductive health.

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