What is it like to give birth in a place where new life is traded for freedom? How and why has imprisonment become an institutionalized post-birth experience for BIPOC women? How do mothers and families fight back against it?
This podcast combines creative ethnographic storytelling, first person narration, conversation, and critical analysis to understand a global health phenomena called "hospital detention",whereby mothers and newborn babies are routinely imprisoned within hospitals following birth in order to forcibly extract surgical fees from their families and communities. Co-hosted by anthropologist Alissa Jordan and birth activist and photojournalist China Tolliver, this episode explores the emergence of these “hospital-prisons” in Haiti and around the world.
We focus on two Haitian mothers—Likna and Naomi—and their experiences of birthing in Euro-American mission hospitals where they were then imprisoned. Held captive with their infants, and neither provided 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—a standard practice in western neoliberal medicine across 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 can fit in a single hand---even though local journalists across the world (from Kinshasa to Nairobi, and Madhya Pradesh to Bogota) have published volumes of accounts on mothers (and others) experiences of clinical captivity.
This episode draws on commentaries and first-person storytelling by Haitian mothers, a Haitian human rights organizer, a senior AP health journalist, and an activist nurse, attending closely to the everyday strategies of resistance that women and families wield against the practice. We connect their stories to broader conversations on birth justice and racial capitalism, highlighting how hospital-prison works to commericalize kin ties and collateralize black and brown bodies.
Special thanks to "Likna", "Naomi", "Nel", "Guerlande", "Marcele", "Pierre" and to Carmelle and Jennifer at MamaBaby Haiti, to Robert Yates & Chatham House, Dr. Karen Cowgill at the University of Washington and Prof. Abel Ntambue of the University of Lubumbashi, Prof. Kakudji Yumba Pascal of the University of Lubumbashi, to Maria Cheng of the Associated Press, and to Charmaine Jordan
English Version Mastered by:
Jared Blalock www.molotovbliss.com
Nicu Hospital Beeps by JGeralyn, freesound.org
Tearing Paper Sound Effect by Keweldog freesound.org
Cash Register by CapsLock, freesound.org
Thick Bed Cover, Ruffling Blankets by CMorris035, freesound.org
Pen Click and Writing by BarkersPinhead, freesound.org
Cafe Ambient Sound by EVSecrets, freesound.org
Tearing paper by Panska Stranska Michaela, freesound.org
Stamp by Desrsuperanton freesound.org
Creaky Metal Gate by Arnaud Coutancier freesound.org
Haiti ambient street sounds by Kyles freesound.org
Prison Door Closing by BrianBaltar freesound.org
Emergency Room Sounds by Bruno Auzet freesound.org
Chopping Vegetables by Ancorapazzo freesound.org
Fence Rattling by Starvolt freesound.org
Running in the Forest by Taira Komori freesound.org
Dishes by Bevibeldesign freesound.org
Sipping Drink by VPP 2015 freesound.org
Person Falling by Blouhound freesound.org
Dufflebag by JRSevers3 freesound.org
Frying Roasting Vegetables in Oil by Neil RAouf freesound.org
Short Run and Stop by Lekingoo freesound.org
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