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Birth and Birth Givers
by Janet Chawla

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Birth is traditionally sharam ki baat, a matter of shame/shyness/embarrassment, not to be spoken about openly�only among older women and those who are mothers. Contesting the simplistic colonial and development discourses interpreting sharam only as shame, this volume presents varied essays exploring women's voices, agency and aesthetics in the traditional handling of childbearing. It includes Ayurveda as it comprehends reproduction, sohars (birth songs), birth narratives, cord-cutters, dais' knowledge and compensation systems, as well as analyses of biomedical dominance and erasure of indigenous knowledge. These essays provide a peek behind the purdah in this critical reclamation of 'tradition'.


Mapping the Terrain: Birth Voices, Knowledges and Work - Janet Chawla

Singing the Female Body: An Exploration of Sohar Songs - Vidya Rao

The Birth of a Baby - Manju Kapur

"Her One Foot is in this World and One in the Other" - Ayurveda, Dais and Maternity  - Anuradha Singh

Birth Rights, Experiences and Knowledge Claims - Deepti Priya Mehrotra

Divisions of Labour: Rethinking the "Midwife" in Rural Uttar Pradesh - Sarah Pinto

Calculating the Monetary Value of Dais' Work: A Strategy for Advocacy - Subadhra Devi Rai

Doctors' Business or Women's Business? Towards Making Childbirth Safer for Poor Women in India - Alpana Sagar

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  Films >
Born at Home
directed by Samira Jain
(English (subtitled), 60 min, 2000, India)

One line descriptor: Indigenous birth practices and practitioners of rural and urban India.

Detailed synopsis
'Born at Home' observes indigenous birth practices and practitioners in parts of India - rural Rajasthan, Bihar, and an urban working class area of Delhi.

Poised between social reality and the eternal mystery of childbearing, the film presents an intricate delineation of the figure of the dai (midwife) who is almost always a low-caste, poor woman. The dais' methods are holistic, conceiving of childbirth not as pathology but continuation of organic life.

Dais handle about 50% of the births in India. Her inherited skills, though accessible and low-cost, are continually devalued by the
mainstream. The film poses a critical question - why does the state not recognise the almost one million traditional practitioners in the country?

Image of Bemata, a goddess invoked at birth, drawn on a charpoy leg. Beside her are ritual symbols, one is the satiya or swastik—indicating auspiciousness. From the documentary film Born at Home, produced by MATRIKA and directed by Samira Jain of Sublunar Films.

Producer: Sublunar Films and Matrika Charitable Trust
World Distributor: Under Construction, a distribution initiative of Magic Lantern Foundation
Keywords: Women, Health, Gender, Caste, Ethnography, Traditional Birth Practices, Ethno-medicine, Medical Anthropology

VCD: Rs. 300 / DVD Rs. 500

VCD: Rs. 450 / DVD Rs. 750
(4% VAT / CST as applicable and courier extra)

Individuals: USD 60
Institutions: USD 120
(Courier extra)

How to order
Send an email enquiry to
MLF will take the matter up further.

  Play >
Birth - BOLD (Birth On Labor Day)
A Play by Karen Brody

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