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Fage-Butler, A.M.
Risk resistance: constructing home birth as morally responsible on an online discussion group
(2017) Health, Risk and Society, pp. 1-15. Article in Press.

DOI: 10.1080/13698575.2017.1327038

In hegemonic risk discourses, hospital obstetric units are represented as the safest and best birth settings; however, a minority of women in England and Wales (2.3% in 2014) still opt for home birth. In this article, I analyse pro-home birth discourses on a UK-based online discussion group for pregnant women covering the period 2010–2015 and collected in March 2016, to identify how individuals making pro-home birth posts on the site represented home birth as a morally responsible choice. Using Foucauldian discourse analysis, I identify three main themes: home births as a normal process, representing an intimate, existential life moment which meets women’s needs for care and personal autonomy, and is convenient and relatively safe, in contrast to hospital births which are characterised as risky; home births as morally legitimate and justified by discourses of evidence-based risk assessment, woman centredness and empowerment; and home birth as not risky and the mothers who opt for it were not taking unnecessary risks but were acting responsibly. In this article, I examine the ways in which the online setting can be used to resist dominant risk discourses. I show how the participants in the online discussion group in my study used available discursive resources to challenge hegemonic risk discourses regarding birth setting, making resistance to dominant risk discourses possible, as pro-home birth discourses legitimised ‘nonconformist’ decisions regarding birth setting. The focus on the ‘risk-takers’ in this article is valuable for healthcare practitioners seeking to improve their communication about birth setting choices with pregnant women. © 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

Author Keywords
birth setting; Foucault; home birth; online discussion group; risk resistance

Index Keywords
discourse analysis, doctor patient relation, empowerment, England, female, health care personnel, home delivery, human, human experiment, mother, personal autonomy, pregnant woman, risk assessment, Wales

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Progressive Geographies


I don’t plan to write detailed posts on the work I’m doing on Georges Canguilhem for the book for Polity’s Key Contemporary Thinkers series, unlike the ones which I’ve been writing on the work on Foucault. (More background on this project here.)

Part of the reason for this is that the research and writing for this book are likely to run in parallel with the work for The Early Foucault, and so the updates for the writing of that book will cover some of the material for this one. In addition, because I will be writing a single book on the whole of Canguilhem’s work, and for an introductory series, it will necessarily be a different type of book to the Foucault ones. The Foucault ones are written, as should be obvious, for an audience who already know at least something about Foucault. They are not, and…

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Progressive Geographies

Foucault and Canguilhem Jean Hyppolite, Michel Foucault, Georges Canguilhem, Dina Dreyfus, 1965 (source: Institut national de l’audiovisuel, via Foucault Blog)

As part of my research on the very early Foucault, I’ve been looking at the work of some of his teachers and other inspirations. One of those figures was Georges Canguilhem, who ended up being the rapporteur for Foucault’s doctoral thesis on the history of madness. Canguilhem is a major figure in the history and philosophy of science, best known for The Normal and the Pathological, but author of several other important studies. Many, but by no means all, of his works are translated into English. The links between Canguilhem and Foucault are not quite as straight-forward as are sometimes claimed, with Foucault having written the entire thesis before showing it to Canguilhem, and it’s not clear that Foucault actually attended any classes by him in the early 1950s. Nonetheless…

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Progressive Geographies

Update 6.JPG

I’ve largely been able to continue the focus of the last update, with a series of fairly uninterrupted days’ research and writing. Aside from continuing work on Lacan, I’ve also been looking at the people who taught Foucault. Merleau-Ponty is the key figure, as I’ve mentioned before, and I’ve done a bit more work on him, but Jean Wahl, Jean Hyppolite, Jean Beaufret, Henri Gouhier, and Daniel Lagache are all important. It’s taken a bit of digging around, but quite a lot of the lectures Foucault attended have been published. So, where possible, I’ve been tracking these down and doing some selective reading. Warwick has a pretty good collection, often in French and English. I was back in London for a couple of days, so did some work in the British Library, though my list of things to do there, and in Paris, is still quite extensive. I have the…

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Knowledge Ecology

beeple-1[Image: Mike Winkelmann]

In my dissertation summary, I linked the works of Evan Thompson, Pierre Hadot, Peter Sloterdijk, and Michel Foucault in terms of each philosopher’s emphasis on what we could call skillsof perception and action, each suggesting a view of philosophy as practice. In Pierre Hadot’s workWhat is Ancient Philosophy?, for example, we finda view of the history of philosophy as a history of practices of self-transformation and self-overcoming (up to and including considerations of just who the”self” is that is overcome).

Despite the implications of histitle, Hadot sees the emphasis on practice as also prevalent in modern philosophical figures, including Descartes, Kant, and Montaigne. In principle, we couldtake a practice view of anytradition of philosophical thought, as many of Hadot’s commentators have done. This is largely the same approach that Peter Sloterdijk takes. InThe Art of Philosophy,Sloterdijk introduces us to his method…

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Progressive Geographies

I’ve now finished work on Foucault: The Birth of Power – the corrections to the proofs have been sent off. In the past several weeks I’ve been working hard on Shakespeare, and have got several chapters into draft state. I’m going to have to take a break from this work in the autumn-winter, with teaching and several talks on different topics, so I’d like to get this manuscript to a point where I can leave it without too many loose ends. This doesn’t mean it’s nearly finished, indeed far from it, but I want it to be at a point where I can put it aside and return, at some point, with fresh eyes and hopefully new energy and ideas.

I’ve put a new page on this site with more information on the Shakespeare project. This supersedes the older page, and more accurately reflects the current shape of it.

Foucault: The…

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Progressive Geographies

0745683916Peter Gratton kindly links to my Interview with Eugene Wolters at critical-theory.com, which I shared at the weekend, and also mentions that he is currently interviewing me, along with Eduardo Mendieta and Dianna Taylor, for Symposium. The interview uses the book as a starting point, but is really a discussion of mid-late Foucault around a range of themes. Peter says “it will appear early in the fall (if not sooner if we can make it open access)”. There are also at least three reviews of the book in progress.

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