Obstructed Labour
208 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:01 Jan 2007
Release Date:31 May 2006
Release Date:01 Jan 2007

Obstructed Labour

Race and Gender in the Re-Emergence of Midwifery

UBC Press

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.


  • 2008, Winner - Book Award, Canadian Women's Studies Association
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
Sheryl Nestel teaches in the Sociology and Equity Studies Department of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto.



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




Find what you’re looking for...
My alt text
Stay Informed

Receive the latest UBC Press news, including events, catalogues, and announcements.

Read past newsletters
Current Catalogue
Fall 2021 catalogue cover with a gradient background
Publishers Represented
UBC Press is the Canadian agent for several international publishers. Visit our Publishers Represented page to learn more.