Autores: Catarina Barata

Artigo | Barata, Catarina (2022). Body Broken in Half: tackling an Afro-Brazilian migrant’s experience of obstetric violence and racism in Portugal through art making. REVISTA [CON]TEXTOS N.º 10

Resumo: This article addresses the issue of obstetric violence and racism by analysing the perception and depiction of the birth experience of an Afro-Brazilian migrant in Portugal, materialised in an artwork that is part of the Gallery of Obstetric Experiences (Galeria das Experiências Obstétricas). In Corpo Partido ao Meio (“Body Broken in Half”), Maíra expresses her experience of disrespectful care, invasive unconsented interventions, and racism. The main focus of her artwork is the relationship between herself as a labouring woman and multiple health professionals who assisted her, organised around two main points: the interaction with a midwife who proffered racist tropes in a gentle way and the interaction with a physician who rudely performed unconsented interventions, while accompanied by medical students. Without disregarding other forms of obstetric violence that Maíra experienced, this paper focuses on a particular form of obstetric racism enunciated by the midwife. According to this midwife, Brazilian women’s bodies are unsuitable for birth due to miscegenation, thus leading to caesarean section. I question this affirmation and how the surgical intervention is presented as an obvious consequential way to address a supposed incapacity of Brazilian bodies to give birth. While Maíra’s experience is, in general, consonant with a wider setting of obstetric care where mistreatment of women is the norm, it echoes in particular an ingrained idea about race purity that is pervasive in a Portuguese society that is in denial about its own colonial past, translating into covert forms of racism in obstetric care as well as in other realms of life.