Reproductive Injustice: A Grammar of Obstetric Racism

Tuesday 10th May

Professor Dána-Ain Davis charts the way two Black reproducing bodies are shaped by a grammar of racism


This event is organised by UCL’s Centre for Gender, Health and Social Justice, the Department of Anthropology and the Sarah Parker Remond Centre.

This event will take place in-person. Due to ongoing Covid risks, this event may be subject to restrictions should the guidance for in-person events change. UCL strongly advises you to continue to wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces in settings where you may come into contact with people you do not normally meet (unless you are exempt).

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In this talk, Professor Dána-Ain Davis charts the way two Black reproducing bodies are shaped by what she thinks of as a grammar of racism. In this thought piece, Davis shares the birthing experiences of two women and thinks through their medical encounters by drawing on Hortense Spillers’ notion of grammar and Emily Martin’s idea of flexible bodies. She deploys both to consider how history degrades Black bodies; shaping them to serve as fodder for—in this case— medical mistreatment. The term grammar of racism is equivalent to the parts of racism that is manifest through two concepts—immunity and susceptibility. Using historical examples of how black bodies sit on a continuum of immunity and susceptibility to illness and disease, Davis argues that the grammar of racism produces Black anti-bodies—those bodies weighed down by Black disposability, neglect, and medical abuse.

Respondent: Professor Sarah Hawkes, Director of UCL’s Centre for Gender and Global Health

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