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Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric, Theory and Culture (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Humanities

Advisor 1

Patricia Sotirin

Committee Member 1

Marika Seigel

Committee Member 2

Victoria Bergvall

Committee Member 3

Sonia Goltz


Independent professional midwifery is an emerging professional practice in India. It is a critical intervention in women’s reproductive healthcare aimed at giving women agency over their bodies and respectful, high quality prenatal and childbirth care. I conceptualize this emergent area of practice as a nascent venture which is yet to establish itself in the country as a mainstream model of care. Based on a feminist poststructuralist framework, this dissertation does a thematic analysis of interviews with the organizational members at an independent professional midwifery clinic to analyze how they position the identity of their clinic and that of their clients.

The analysis found that the organizational members use the family metaphor as a discursive tool to establish their niche by providing an alternative model based on respectful care in a homelike environment. The family metaphor is subversive in the sense that it challenges the hegemonic medical model of pregnancy and childbirth care; however, it is also a conduit for concertive control and may facilitate paternalistic behaviors within the clinic. The other major theme evident in the interviews is that of the neoliberal subjectivity of both the clinic and the clients. My analysis reveals how organizational members frame their operations through a neoliberal rationality which includes choice, responsibility and consumerism.

While the clinic contributes to the cultural politics of prenatal and childbirth care by successfully modeling respectful, consumer-driven practices, the viability of independent professional midwifery practice risks being dismissed for its elitism and exclusivity, and its political edge is vulnerable to being co-opted by market forces when framed within a neoliberal discourse. Therefore, the clinic’s neoliberal appeal is both a critical strategy in the contemporary struggle for women’s rights and reproductive health alternatives and a limited and ultimately exclusive position that fails to engage with the structured inequities of contemporary India. More broadly, this research highlights the need for a more inclusive, expansive, and versatile social, professional, and entrepreneurial positioning of independent professional midwifery practice.