Belly : blackness and reproduction in the Lone Star State




Cole, Haile Eshe

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This dissertation begins with the finding that in the United States Black women are four times as likely to die due to pregnancy related complications than their white counterparts as well as the finding that Black children are 2 to 2.5 times as likely to die before their first birthday. Given this, the project examines the intersections between Black women’s reproductive experiences and the condition of reproductive health and access in the state of Texas. In order to accomplish this, the research situates the grassroots organizing work of a collective of mothers of color alongside national and state level legislation and data about maternal and infant health disparities. The work not only situates ethnographic experiences within the larger repertoire of quantitative health literature on disparities but it also historicizes the work alongside Black Feminist theories of the body, history, and Black women’s reproduction. Drawing from extended participant observations, interviews, focus groups, policy research, statistics, and archival work, this project unpacks the large disparity that exists in maternal and infant health outcomes for African-American women and the ways in which policy, community organizing, and other geo-political factors contribute to, mediate, or remedy this phenomenon. Given the data presented, this projects suggests that (re)creating supportive communities and support networks may be an effective way of mediating stress caused by long-term exposures to racism and ultimately healing the negative maternal health outcomes for black women.




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