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 Featured Title
Obstructed Labour
Race and Gender in the Re-Emergence of Midwifery
Sheryl Nestel  

$97.00 Hardcover
Release Date: 5/31/2006
ISBN: 9780774812191    

$36.95 Paperback
Release Date: 1/1/2007
ISBN: 9780774812207    

208 Pages


About the Book

Winner, 2008 Canadian Women's Studies Book Award

Obstructed Labour analyzes how the movement to legalize midwifery in Ontario reproduced racial inequality by excluding from practice hundreds of professional midwives from the global south. Global macroprocesses of power, institutional forms of exclusion, and interpersonal expressions of racism all play a part. Sheryl Nestel shows that unequal relations between women underlie the successful challenge to patriarchal medical authority mounted by provincial midwifery activists. This is a disquieting but fascinating counter-history of the re-emergence of midwifery.

Obstructed Labour should be read by those who want to understand how racism works in both policy and everyday practice as well as by those interested in pursuing equity in the struggle for women’s reproductive rights.

About the Author(s)

Sheryl Nestel teaches in the Sociology and Equity Studies Department of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto.

Table of Contents

Introduction: A New Profession to the White Population in Canada

1. Technologies of Exclusion

2. Midwifery in Ontario: A Counter-History

3. Midwifery Tourism

4. “Ambassadors of the Profession”: The Construction of Respectable Midwifery

5. Narratives of Exclusion and Resistance of Women of Colour

Conclusion: The Construction of Unequal Subjects

Appendix A: Information letter for research participants
Appendix B: Poster to solicit study participants
Appendix C: Chronology of midwifery in Ontario
Appendix D: Interview for immigrant midwives of colour
Appendix E: Interview for white “non-elite” midwives
Appendix F: Interview for white members of midwifery bodies
Appendix G: Interview for women of colour who participated on midwifery bodies


"An important, at times heartbreaking, account of some of the contradictions at the heart of the new midwifery. This is a book that those of us in medical sociology, women’s studies, and critical race studies will want to read and to think about. And those of us who care - care deeply - about the past, present, and future of midwifery need to read this book." - Barbara Katz Rothman, author of Weaving a Family: Untangling Race and Adoption

Obstructed Labour should be mandatory for all midwifery colleges and in all midwifery education programs.
—Rachael McKendry, Canadian Journal of Sociology Online, March-April 2007

Obstructed Labour is a brilliant and cogent case study of the profession of midwifery’s attempt to legitimize itself in the province of Ontario in the late 20th century.

…this book is compelling and brave, and once I started it I couldn’t put it down.
- Nanci Langford, Athabasca University, Labour / Le Travail, Vol. 60, Fall 2007

Nestel’s work makes good on its advocacy of the painful accounting for errors of the past, weaving the reader deftly through a highly troubling depiction of racism and the propagation of hegemonic discourses arising from a well-meaning feminist endeavour. … This work is highly important to the growth of feminist activism and scholarship, as well as for the growth of the midwifery movement. I would highly recommend this book to Women’s Studies classes and to feminist readers of all backgrounds. The theme and analysis transcends the midwifery movement itself, providing an excellent examination of the dangers of adhering to notions of generic womanhood and of all forms of socially conscious organizing which do not allow for dissenting voices. … Obstructed Labour offers a difficult but necessary wake up call to feminist theorists and organizers….
- Natasha Pinterics, Mount Saint Vincent University, Atlantis, Vol. 32.2, 2008

Obstructed Labour makes a much-needed contribution to the literature on the midwifery movement in Canada. It is an enlightening book that will attract a broad readership. While it sheds an ill light on Ontario’s midwifery movement, it provides the reader with a valuable counter-narrative to the "heroic tale" (p. 156) of midwifery’s revival in the province.
- Rachel Westfall, Canadian Journal of Sociology, 2008

Sample Chapter

Front Matter and Chapter One

Related Topics

Women's Studies
Gender Studies

Other Ways To Order

In Canada, order your copy of Obstructed Labour from UTP Distribution at:

UTP Distribution
5201 Dufferin Street
Toronto, Ontario
M3H 5T8

Phone orders: 1(800)565-9523 or (416)667-7791
Fax orders: 1(800)221-9985 or (416)667-7832

Ordering information for customers outside Canada

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