Puerpera

A community of scholars

This site is the product of a desire to bring together scholars interested in issues of pregnancy and childbirth from all ranges of disciplines, topics, geographical areas, and historical periods, ranging from Antiquity to Early Modern. Our goal is to create connections between areas of research that are normally intentionally kept separate, with different research models, writing standards and terminology. The intersection in different fields of studies is the starting point for the discovery of new perspectives and approaches, providing new ideas and opportunities for interdisciplinary projects.

If this statement is accurate for all scholarship, it is undoubtedly true when talking about pregnancy and childbirth. The act of childbirth itself is couched in a contradiction: it has always and will always take place everywhere on earth, and yet in its timelessness and universality it is also inescapably tied to specific beliefs, historical moments, geographical spaces and social practices. The intellectual attempt to understand and rationalize birth is equally as old and as fraught with superstitions as the process of birth itself, a process that, though essential for human survival, has always been surrounded by mystery and ritual.

Because childbirth is so personal and yet so inevitable, nobody remains untouched by it. If not everyone has given birth, everyone has encountered the birth of somebody’s child and therefore has had a direct and individual experience. As a consequence, everyone has developed some level of expectations, assumptions or views based on a local, cultural and historical setting.  We, like all those who preceded us, are therefore inexorably biased in our perception of the most fundamental human event. Taking a more geographically and methodologically global approach to childbirth studies may help us escape our own inevitable assumptions, whether based on our personal experience or on the focus of our area of specialization.

435px-Ghirlandaio-Giovanna_Tornabuoni_cr