Commodifying Indigeneity: How the Humanization of Birth Reinforces Racialized Inequality in Mexico

Vega, Rosalynn Adeline
Medical Anthropology Quarterly

This article examines the humanized birth movement in Mexico and analyzes how the remaking of tradition—the return to traditional birthing arts (home birth, midwife-assisted birth, natural birth)—inadvertently reinscribes racial hierarchies. The great irony of the humanized birth movement lies in parents’ perspective of themselves as critics of late capitalism. All the while, their very rejection of consumerism bolsters ongoing commodification of indigenous culture and collapses indigeneity, nature, and tradition onto one another. While the movement is quickly spreading across Mexico, indigenous women and their traditional midwives are largely excluded from the emerging humanized birth community. Through ethnographic examples, the article suggests that indigenous individuals are agentive actors who appropriate cards in decks stacked against them. Examples of resistance emerge within a context of power and political economy that often capitalizes on images of indigeneity while obscuring the lives, experiences, and opinions of indigenous people.