Bumps on display: Pregnant consumption showcasing middle-class motherhood

In my ethnographic study of fourteen women’s pregnancies with seven obstetricians in Cape Town, South Africa, private sector childbirth was not only a marker of social class but inscribed markings of class onto its users. The ubiquity of narratives of ‘safety first’, often the justification for hospital birth, meant that celebrities were seen to be ‘sparing no expense’ while at the same time ‘making mommy look good’ when spending vast amounts of money on a stroller. Attuned to normativity through the performative scripting of middleclass pregnancy and birth, I will show how pregnant displays constitute the foetal and maternal in ways that materialise the quality of relationship(s) being claimed.

The sociological literature on consumption posits that pleasure drives its pursuit and provides individuals with the means to construct their identities, fashioning the selves they display. Pertaining to the birth but negotiated throughout pregnancy, birth choices cover a proliferating range of goods, services and providers. De-medicalisation is increasingly lucrative, with the market for ‘natural’ childbirth in high demand amidst the highly medicalised, technologically advanced, private medical facilities available in Cape Town. This talk will offer insights into the currency of maternity as tied to gendered constructions of the good mother, fashioned through the consumption and negotiation of childbirth choices.

Nicole Daniels is a sociologist at the University of Cape Town whose work centres on the making of narratives of private sector childbirth.  As a research affiliate in FASRU (Family Studies Research Unit, CSSR) her work employs a relational ontology to accommodate the multiplicity forces acting on and perspectives constituting middle-class families. Her PhD research looks at the interactional negotiations that forge pathways through pregnancy and foregrounds the relationship with the obstetrician in the social context shaping experiences of childbirth. In addition to lecturing on introductory courses in the social sciences, she teaches social research and qualitative methodologies to undergraduate and postgraduate students. This has catalysed an interest in decolonial pedagogies and critical feminist teaching praxis.


Tue, 15 Oct 2019 -
12:30 to 14:00

Room 4.29 Centre for Social Science Research, Seminar Room,Level 4,Upper Campus

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Nondumiso Hlwele