Pregnancy and Birth in a Transcultural Field

Dynamics of social integration and conflict regulation

In my investigation I focus on birth, pregnancy and childbed in a field of transcultural influences. In this context birth is conceptualised as a biocultural phenomenon, which is based on the theoretical assumption that birth is shaped to a large extent by cultural and social factors.

Within this framework I am taking into account both birth narrations as well as performances of pregnancy and young motherhood of migrants and women in bi-national relations in Berlin-Neukölln. In this context, women are understood as social actors, which refer to more than one social reality, which they co-create in a conscious or unconscious way. Such a focus on ascertained interactions neither prefers the cultural performances of the actors, nor neglects the institutional frames and the impact of political power of the social construction of knowledge and emotion (Abu-Lughod/Lutz 1990).

Thus the issue of the project concerns the intra- and interpersonal conflicts that emerge within the clash of antagonistic concepts of knowledge and emotions in a transcultural field: Different concepts of emotion and knowledge about pregnancy and birth are meeting one another, conflicts arise and new forms of authoritative knowledge develop. Thereby conflicts are conceptualised as a universal part of human relationship and as an important engine of social dynamic. They can contribute to a social integration, as well as destruct society (Eckert 2004). The development of authoritative knowledge therefore is a continuous process, which originates and reflects power relations inside of a community (Jordan 1997).

The focus of my research is to observe these processes and to analyse the underlying structures of power. Considering the convergence of different concepts of knowledge and emotion against the background of a transcultural framework the focus is on identifying coping strategies during and with the event of birth as a major milestone in the life of a woman.  Emotions are perceived as mediator between thinking and acting while they enable to alter cognition into action in this context. (Röttger-Rössler 2004).
The main research subjects are outlined below:

  • How is authoritative knowledge of birth and pregnancy formed in the context of transcultural influences?
  • How are different concepts of emotion negotiated and organised? (Which ‘feeling rules’ (Hochschild 1979) are significant in experiencing birth? In which way are knowledge, emotion and action connected to each other?)
  • Which dynamics of social integration and conflict regulation can be perceived? (How are these conflicts expressed and conceptualized by the different actors? Which strategies are actively used by the actors with regards to social integration? In what way does the institutional structure react?)


Abu-Lughod, Lila/Catherine A. Lutz 1990: Language and the Politics of Emotion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Eckert, Julia M. 2004: Gewalt, Meidung und Verfahren: Zur Konflikttheorie Georg Elwerts. In: Eckert, Julia M. (ed.): Anthropologie der Konflikte: Georg Elwerts konflikttheoretische Thesen in der Diskussion. Bielefeld: transcript. 7-25.

Hochschild, Arlie R. 1979: Emotion Work, Feeling Rules, and Social Structure. American Journal of Sociology, 85(3).  551-575.

Jordan, Brigitte 1997: Authoritative Knowledge and Its Construction. In: Davis-Floyd, Robbie E./Carolyn F. Sargent (eds.): Childbirth and Authoritative Knowledge. Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Berkley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press. 55-79.

Röttger-Rössler, Birgit 2004: Die kulturelle Modellierung des Gefühls. Ein Beitrag zur Theorie und Methodik ethnologischer Emotionsforschung anhand indonesischer Fallstudien, Münster/Hamburg/London: Lit-Verlag.

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