Creating Bodies
Childbirth Practices in Pre-Modern Karelia

By Marja-Liisa Keinanen
December 2003
Stockholm University,
Department of Comparative Religion
ISBN: 91-7265-623-0
321 pages, Illustrated, 7" x 9 "
$95.00 Paper Original

This is a Ph.D. dissertation. Childbirth practices were for long a neglected area in folklore studies and when scholars did broach the subject they were often so burdened by their own preconceived ideas and assumptions that they often unwittingly concealed vital aspects of women's culture.

The goal of the present study is to fill in some of the gaps left by earlier research. In this sense it can be seen as a classical additive study within the wider field of women's studies whose aim has been to make visible women and their experiences, ideas and activities, often rendered invisible in earlier male-dominated scholarship. Feminist theoreticians have argued that women's invisibility is not only of an empirical nature but is also embedded at the analytical level and that making women's experiences visible demands more than just "adding in women and stirring" (Moore 1995:2f).

The conceptual basis of the mother disciplines must be scrutinized as well as the implicit assumptions underlying their research practices since these are still the root cause of women's continued invisibility. This analytical invisibility stems from the fact that our sources, concepts, models and theories have been formed on the basis of men's experiences and activities which in many aspects differ from and do not always adequately illuminate those of women. The line of reasoning which presupposes that the generic masculine also embraces the feminine is flawed at its outset, since gender systems assign women and men different gender roles and evaluate these roles differently, which in turn gives rise to gender-specific experiences.

Bynum's and Lincoln's critical work within the field of ritual studies clearly shows how scholarly definitions which have been ascribed almost universal validity do not always describe or embrace women's practices in a fully satisfactory manner. Therefore, the goal of women's studies, gender studies or feminist studies or feminist studies - the terms are often used interchangeably - is to deconstruct the various types of androcentrism which have built into earlier male-dominated research at several levels of inquiry.


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