La Tecnología y Las Monjitas: Constellations of Authoritative Knowledge at a Religious Birthing Center in South Texas

Abstract

In this article, I contrast conceptualizations of authoritative knowledge in pregnancy and birth between U.S. midwives and their Mexican immigrant clients at a religious birthing center in south Texas. Although the two groups share certain orientations to pregnancy management, essential differences in prenatal care and birth epistemologies underscore distinct social and economic positions. I use narrative data to document and explain these differences, which throw into relief the hierarchies of identity and need that structure immigrant women’s reproductive experiences. Unveiling the different epistemologies can also help to explain sometimes radically divergent ideas that have impacted the very survivability of the birthing center. By focusing on Mexican immigrant women’s reproductive decision making in an alternative birthing center, this analysis responds to feminists’ call to look to the margins to understand the diversity of women’s responses to what Rapp and Ginsburg have called “stratified reproduction.”