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

Article: Writing Ourselves in Sociology

(See below for link to article)

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about writing, thinking about the craft of it – because I’m teaching it. You really need to understand something if you have to teach it.

I developed a doctoral seminar on ‘Writing for Publication’ after a few of our students complained that there wasn’t enough mentoring for publishing. My first reaction to that was irritation: You’ve got to be kidding! I spend half my life doing that. But then I thought about it and realized that sure, I did that for my students, and some of my colleagues did it for theirs, but some of our students – well, they fell between the cracks. We no longer have an ‘old boys network’ that sees to it that upper class white men get the mentoring they need. But there still are networks – ‘interesting’ students, students doing ‘interesting’ work – they get mentored. But some people, maybe more shy, maybe doing work that doesn’t grab the attention of any of the faculty, they just muddle through, putting things together for themselves.

So I developed this course, made mentoring for publication an entitlement – anyone who registered would get the mentoring. It required me to think through so many things, all mixed up with ordinary ones we always think about and new ones I’d never actually had to verbalize – how to title an article; how to choose journals for submissions, what works as a presented paper at a meeting, how much can you re-use material from one publication to another… on and on. The course is a year long – we meet every other week for a full academic year. It takes that long to grow publications; things planted in the fall don’t start flowering till spring.

Having done it as a course, I found myself doing it as short workshops at conferences. And suddenly a whole new set of ethical issues arose for me -- all kinds of ethical questions beyond simple IRB (Internal Review Board) questions about ‘protection of human subjects.’ For one thing, when I have a person taking the workshop whose work I don’t particularly admire – why on earth am I helping them publish it? Is that the right thing for me to be doing? I had that realization in a flash at a workshop at a meeting that will remain nameless: someone asked a question and I thought ‘why on god’s earth am I helping this jerk perpetuate this awful work?’ So now I am VERY selective about where I will do this workshop.

But this piece – I think it’s still OK. I am basically asking people to be more there, more present in their work. And that is something I want, both for the good people and, frankly even more so for the jerks.


Read article here.