At Work in the Field of Birth is an ethgraphic study of midwifery in Canada in the wake of its historic transition from the margins as a grassroots social movement devoted to low-tech, woman-centered care to a regulated profession within the public health care system. In January 1994, after decades of lobbying by midwives and their supporters, the province of Ontario recognized midwifery as a profession for the first time in more than a century. Through stories about becoming and being a midwife and stories about receiving midwifery care, this book describes how fundamental tenets of midwifery philosophy and practice - the meaning of tradition, natural birth, and home birth, and the place of medical techlogy in midwifery - are being reworked by the practical and ideological challenges of midwifery's new place within the formal health care system. MacDonald presents contemporary midwifery as a complex cultural system in which nature and tradition emerge as dynamic rather than essentialized social categories of meaning and experience.
Margaret MacDonald teaches in the Department of Anthropology at York University in Toronto.