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Midwifery. 2010 Aug;26(4):457-62. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2008.10.004. Epub 2008 Dec 11.

Re-discovering the material body in midwifery through an exploration of theories of embodiment.

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Otago Polytechnic, School of Midwifery, Private Bag 1910, Dunedin, 9001, New Zealand.


The body is of central concern to midwifery yet, as a profession, we have largely failed to grapple with the corpus of feminist and other literature that deals with the body. This article provides an overview of the ways in which the body has been theorised, from the essential and biological through to postmodern theories of the body. We draw attention to the limitations of some of these approaches, suggesting that Elizabeth Grosz's schema of the Möbius strip (representing the inter-relationships between the inside and outside, culture and nature) provides a useful framework for thinking about the body; one that avoids a biological materialism that disregards the effect of culture, and a cultural determinism that neglects the corporeal body. Recognising the multiplicity and fluidity of women's experiences of pregnancy, their body and childbearing emancipates us from the limitations imposed by the masculinist Western philosophical traditions that we have inherited.

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