About this site

Welcome to my site. My friends and I created this to share some of my work and - more importantly - to invite an exchange of ideas.

I've been a sociologist for a long time. and ventured into a number of different fields over the years: birth and midwifery (which I still think of as my home base); the new genetics and reproductive technologies; medical sociology; bioethics; issues in disability; adoption; race; and now food studies too. Some of you might know my work in one of these areas, others in a different area. What would be really interesting would be to have people talk, with each other and with me, across areas. I've tried, with some success over the years, to talk to midwives about genetics; to encourage people who do new reproductive technologies to think about home birth; to have bioethicists pay more attention to what medical sociology can offer; to get people in Food Studies thinking where midwifery issues overlap with their concerns. These are invariably the most fun and stimulating conversations I've ever been a part of. Connecting people, connecting ideas, weaving the webs that pull us together - nothing could make me happier. So this site, a gift from my friends, is my place to do this kind of weaving.

We've grouped my work by area - but please, if you're here because you have gotten anything useful out of my work in one area, do poke around for a minute in another. Bring your insights and wisdom and experience to a new place, a new issue. Let's see what we can weave together.

- Barbara Katz Rothman

Biomedical Imperialism

For a long time I’ve been thinking about going beyond what my colleagues in sociology now routinely call ‘the biomedical industrial complex,’ and asking us to think of Biomedicine as an Imperial power, having not only enormous financial resources but also the almost-religious belief system and the governmental power of any empire.  People ‘believe’ in aspects of medicine; and your citizenship, your personhood, depends on medical approval, from birth certificates through proof of competency, on to death certificates.  I’m using this ‘covid moment’ to put these thoughts together in a new book, coming from Stanford Briefs in the spring.  I am exploring the ways that Public Health seems to have morphed into ‘medicine for all,’ and the particular role of biomedical citizenship at ‘the gates of life,’ the management of both birth and death.  

My Finnish Fulbright Fantasy

I was honored to be the recipient of the Fulbright-Saastamoinen Foundation Distinguished Chair in Health Sciences 2018-2019.

This Fulbright, as a Distinguished Chair, differs from most -- it is for two separate month-long trips.

The work I did there includes returning to a project I did in the Netherlands on a Fulbright over 20 years ago, interviewing prenatal care providers on their experience and understandings of how prenatal diagnosis affects pregnancy as a social and emotional experience. That work was published as SPOILING THE PREGNANCY (click to read 
here) by the Dutch Midwifery Foundation. I am engaged in ongoing work with Finnish colleagues, particularly Johanna Sarlio-Nieminen and the Kone Foundation, looking at birth care and services in Finland.

Air rights and local politics

Not all of my writing is strictly sociology. I have been working with the Lower East Side “East River Park Action Organization” to save the park running alongside the East River, mostly right along a stretch of public housing, from being razed, from having 1000 trees destroyed, in an ill-advised plan for coastal resiliency.  

Click here to read my op-ed on air rights on Bowery Boogie. (Alternate link here).

My Bowery Boogie op-ed on trees can be read here, and another on the East River Park Resiliency Project is here.

Update: An article in The Village Sun about racist rezoning in NY here.

African American Midwifery: A History and a Lament

It's a great source of pleasure to be working now with my former student, my 'progeny' Keisha Goode. We did a presentation of our joint work at the American Sociological Association meetings in a panel honoring the legacy of Ida B Wells. And we've published this article in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology. We're also completing a reference book on Pregnancy and Birth in America for ABC-CLIO -- aimed particularly at HS and College undergrads.

Click here to read.

The Cost of Medicalized Contraception: Now More than Ever

As we face the Trumpocalypse,  I keep thinking of what Pauline Bart used to say: "They can't legislate away skills."  We are fighting awful legislation on all fronts.  Here's my response to one issue, the defunding of contraception services.  I know we have to do this fight -- but I'd so much rather move contraception, and abortion, out of medical control.  

Click here to read my full post on the NYU Press blog.

Blog Post for "Books Combined"

Academics have to do a lot of writing.  And I do, I like writing, I even teach a 'writing for publication' seminar for sociology doctoral students.  But all the articles, the reviews, the chapters, they all fade for me compared to the books.  The blog "Books Combined" asked me to write about some book that inspired or moved me.... and instead I wrote about a book memorial. 

You can read the post here.

Contemporary Sociology Review & Response

Contemporary Sociology is my own communities journal, and this review there, of all places, rather hurt. The reviewer didn't 'get' what I was doing, but more disturbing than that, put the words of my informants into my mouth.  That smarts.  So here's the review, and my response.

Contemporary Sociology review and my response.

BUN Reviews

Updated October 2017 -

Journal of American Culture, Book Review, Summer 2017

The Journal of American Culture review can be read here.

North American Dialogue, Book Review, Summer 2017

The North American Dialogue review can be read here.

The Cresset, "An Order for Delivery," Summer 2017

The Cresset review can be read here.

Patheos, "Birth and Eating as Resistance Movements", Jan 30, 2017

The Patheos review can be read here.
(Update: A longer version can be read in The Cresset link above)

Feminist Collections, "Ovens & Ovaries: Reclaiming Food & Birth in a Capitalist Society", Fall 2016

The Feminist Collections review can be read here.

Times Literary Supplement, Sept 9, 2016:

This review does make me want to read the Ramaswamy book, and oh, what an interesting idea, maybe I should write a book about birth...

TLS review can be read here.

Huffington Post, August 29, 2016:

A review of BUN by Fabio Parasecoli, Associate professor and director of Food Studies Initiatives, New School - NY can be read here.

PsycCRITIQUES, American Psychological Association, July 11, 2016

The PsycCRITIQUES review can be read here.

Times Higher Education, July 4, 2016

"A sociologist in the world of midwifery is introduced to food studies, and spots parallels everywhere with the world of birth. Her wittily named study ranges insightfully from Julia Child to natural childbirth, and from Lamaze and Pavlov to labour times, Cesareans and kale chips as she considers how 'birth and food, once so profoundly part of women's world of production, ultimately came to be acts of consumption,.. framed inside a big machine, an industrialized, medicalized, and capitalist system'".

(Can be read here)

Food, Birth, and the Future

"The Future We Want: Global Sociology and the Struggle for a Better World" is a web forum intended to orient the broader debate for July's ISA forum in Vienna. They asked me to write about my ideas about the future, and I wrote about Food, Birth, and the Future.

Please click here for more.