Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


African American Studies


Joan Bryant


birth worker, black feminism, doula, midwife, New York City, reproductive justice


“The Politics of Care: An Analysis of the Lives and Stories of Black Birth Workers in New York City'' examines the complex relationship between Black birth workers and the state. Black birth work, traditionally, has existed as resistance to state policies and actors that limited Black women’s reproductive freedom. In New York City, where Black maternal mortality and morbidity outcomes are comparable to the national average, the state has mobilized to produce the Citywide Doula Initiative, a program designed to provide free birth worker support to families in financial need. Considering the violent relationship between birth workers and the state, I investigate the ways that Black birth workers who work in New York City, negotiate their politics while engaging in imperative life-saving work. By listening to the stories of birth workers, I learned about their unique lives, dreams and passion for the crucial work that they do in addition to their limitations. I argue that Black birth workers are radical actors who engage in labor that resists medical racism and obstetric violence regardless of the terrain. I unpack the limitations and strengths of the multifaceted decision that birth workers must make, whether they work within the system or try to dismantle it.


Open Access



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