Preparing for Motherhood: Authoritative Knowledge and the Undercurrents of Shared Experience in Two Childbirth Education Courses in Cagliari, Italy


This article compares the social settings and teaching organization of two differently structured childbirth education courses in Cagliari, Italy, in order to understand how social processes and contexts work to negotiate authoritative knowledge. Although the explicit goal of both courses was to transmit biomedical knowledge, knowledge based in women’s experience nonetheless dominated some course sessions. Thus, I examine the social processes and interactions that enabled women’s experiential knowledge to dominate discussions and subsequently share in the authority of biomedical knowledge in some situations. Because few existing studies do so, this article also addresses a gap in our current understanding by exploring not only how experiential knowledge comes to share authority with biomedical knowledge, but also, why it is important that it does. Focusing on the efficacy of differently structured courses, this article informs the planning of future childbirth education courses in similar settings.

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