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Distributed for University of British Columbia Press

Obstructed Labour

Race and Gender in the Re-Emergence of Midwifery

Obstructed Labour analyzes how the movement to legalize midwifery in Ontario reproduced racial inequality by excluding from practice hundreds of professional midwives from the global south. Global macroprocesses of power, institutional forms of exclusion, and interpersonal expressions of racism all play a part. Sheryl Nestel shows that unequal relations between women underlie the successful challenge to patriarchal medical authority mounted by provincial midwifery activists. This is a disquieting but fascinating counter-history of the re-emergence of midwifery.

208 pages

Table of Contents



Introduction: A New Profession to the White Population in Canada

1 Technologies of Exclusion

2 Midwifery in Ontario: A Counter-History

3 Midwifery Tourism

4 “Ambassadors of the Profession”: The Construction of Respectable Midwifery

5 Narratives of Exclusion and Resistance of Women of Colour

Conclusion: The Construction of Unequal Subjects

Appendix A: Information letter for research participants

Appendix B: Poster to solicit study participants

Appendix C: Chronology of midwifery in Ontario

Appendix D: Interview for immigrant midwives of colour

Appendix E: Interview for white “non-elite” midwives

Appendix F: Interview for white members of midwifery bodies

Appendix G: Interview for women of colour who participated on midwifery bodies




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