Interventive Care: Uncertainty, Distributed Agency, and Cesarean Section in a Zika Virus Epidemic


Beginning in 2015, Brazil witnessed the births of thousands of children with neurological abnormalities linked to the Zika virus. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2016 and 2018 with parents of children with congenital Zika syndrome in Salvador da Bahia, this article attends to how one of Brazil’s most overused obstetric technologies—cesarean section—was mobilized to mitigate the uncertainties of Zika’s reproductive consequences. I argue that during the epidemic, C‐section constituted a form of what I call interventive care, in which others interceded on behalf of pregnant women to secure surgical delivery. In dialogue with scholarship problematizing autonomy in reproductive decision making, I show how my Bahian interlocutors understood such intercessions, and the C‐sections themselves, as forms of appropriate, concerned care. I suggest, furthermore, that interventive care highlights the ways in which reproductive decisions are distributed among people rather than autonomous, particularly in contexts of heightened uncertainty.