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 I'm exploring 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

Thinking about Prenatal Diagnosis -- In German!!!

The lovely thing about having a book translated is very different people, with very different contexts, think about your work.  No more interesting context than Germany exists for my work on Prenatal Testing and its implicit eugenic thinking.  While Americans usually dismiss the idea that there is anything genetic about these tests (they're just to make sure we have healthy babies!) the Germans recognize that search for healthy babies to be precisely what eugenics is ("eu" meaning well, and 'genics" meaning born).  But the hard part about being translated is you really don't understand what's being said about your work!  Recently, Schone Neue Welt der Fortpflanzung was discussed on a radio program in Germany.   So thanks to the kindness of friends, for those who, like me, don't understand German, below is a rough on-the-fly translation of the radio piece, with some commentary.

Listen to the original broadcast here.



Translation on the fly, by Katharina Rost
I listened to it, here the summary:
They have a science book review twice a year always with a special topic. (I am just typing along the program...)
This time it has been value of life.  Two reporters, one presenting two books by women who wrote about their own experiences, another your book. They have a kind of dialogue between these two perspectives. Your perspective, the perspective of the pregnant women.
They present first one book by a mother prenatally diagnosed in pregnancy (like my topic).
Your book is like a reference point, providing a look on society’s for all the other books.  This what they say (I try to type along the program):
"The author is not providing a scientific overview over prenatal diagnosis methods but provides a overview over the development of the last 25 years.  The author has foreseen or really early described what is happening in two parts: one about birth and midwifery, the midwifery model as something which can be put up against the medical system (then they refer that in the others books the women don’t have a midwife, talk about the lack of midwife in the experience of the women).  It’s about pushing the woman out of her own pregnancy.  And pushing out the midwifes and how this all is connected.  The bonding via the ultrasound versus the body-bonding.  The fetus developing to a person out of the symbiosis with the mother.
They talk about the tentative pregnancy (reporter is very surprised, has never heard about it and loves your thoughts :) )
Fetus and mother are put against each other while the woman needs to be seen as a unity (then they refer to the other books, how the women feel the symbiosis, how the medical world is cutting this symbiosis and that for the mothers this symbiosis is not finished; that the mothers don’t seek medical advice but other support).

For BKR is pregnancy as a special time in life, for midwife care model, women need to be seen as active.

Then second part: prenatal diagnosis:
What is to be done with knowledge genetic-- how to feed a child when you know that your child will get sick by 25.  They talk about your writing about PND and the first reporter is always interrupting: Yes, this is how it is! The story of the women is telling exactly this!

Reporter loves your language: her language is emotional and plastic and real and very understandable.

Then another book is presented, very interesting. Another woman who is after the diagnosis researching everything.  After that a historical review about the history of disability politics last century is presented. The last book is about a woman who is killed in the Third Reich by euthanasia.

Conclusion of the reporter is: How are we dealing with disability? What is society doing? 
Today everything is individualized, but who is really deciding? Why are medical experts deciding about moral questions society should decide?
BKR is seeing it as a lost battle because it is proceeding and nobody is putting a limit to it (so you had kind of the last word...)

Very positive reception!!!!!