A blog of the Center for Experimental Ethnography
CEE Postdoctoral fellow Alissa Jordan has released a podcast and a website in both English and Haitian Creole on the intersection of care and carcerality in "hospital detentions". The first episode of the podcast, "Birthing Resistance: Stories of Hospital Prison" is co-hosted with birth activist and founder of Rise Up Midwife, China Tolliver, with a second Creole episode, "Rezistans ak Akouchman: Lòpital Pa Prizon" hosted by Alissa. The podcast combines creative ethnographic storytelling, dramatic re-readings of personal narratives, and analytic reflection to understand the emergence of “hospital-prisons” and medical detention in Haiti and around the world. It focuses on two Haitian mothers—Likna and Naomi—and their experiences of birthing in Euro-American mission hospitals where they were then imprisoned for months. Held captive with their infants, and provided neither food, water, or toiletries, these hospitals leveraged Naomi, Likna, and their companions as corporeal collateral to force families and communities to pay outstanding debts for obstetric surgeries.
Called global public health’s “open secret” (Cowgill & Ntatumbe 2019) the practice of hospital detention is widespread across hospitals in well over 52 countries of the world. It overwhelmingly impacts black women, indigenous women, and women of color and their babies during birth journeys. In spite of its ubiquity, the amount of academic articles written on the practice could fit in a single hand, while local journalists from Kinshasa to Nairobi, and Madhya Pradesh to Bogota have published volumes of accounts on mothers (and others) experiences of clinical captivity. What kind of silences are being kept around medical detention? How are these silences related to deeper histories of racial capitalism, medicine, and its particularly intense manipulations of black motherhood and black reproduction? And how have mothers like Likna and Naomi, healthcare workers like Guerlande, and other journalists from around the world been challenging it?
Drawing on commentaries and first-person storytelling by Haitian mothers, a Haitian human rights organizer, a senior AP health journalist, and an activist nurse, both English and Creole versions of podcast attend to the everyday strategies of resistance that women, families, and organizers wield against the practice.
The project also includes an interactive website, www.birthresistance.com, envisioned as a multilingual platform for promoting discussion, sharing research, and amplifying patient stories and strategies. It features full conversations with experts on the practice including mothers, journalists, academics, and activists.
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