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.