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Symbolic Patterns of Childbirth

Anja Hänsch

This study investigates long-lasting cultural constructions of childbirth. Four symbolic patterns of childbirth emerge from the analysis of a variety of texts ranging from myths, philosophy, literature and religion to ethics of modern medicine. On a symbolic level «The Supremacy of the Male» attributes the coming into existence of a child primarily to male «pro-creation.» «The Supremacy of the Female», contrarily, relates childbirth to conception, pregnancy and giving birth on part of the woman. «Theoretical, Spiritual and Political Natality versus Childbirth» pictures childbirth as lower in value as the realms of ideas, religion, the political or the arts. In contrast to this, «Harmony between Spiritual/Theoretical Natality and Childbirth» shows that spiritual birth and childbirth can also be intertwined. It is argued that different symbolic patterns of childbirth may imply different gender relations and different views on «life» in general. The theoretical part of the book is based on Hannah Arendt’s philosophy of natality and on Martin Heidegger whose ideas on death are used for a philosophical conception of the woman giving birth.

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This study investigates long-lasting cultural constructions of childbirth. Four symbolic patterns of childbirth emerge from the analysis of a variety of texts ranging from myths, philos- ophy, literature and religion to ethics of modern medicine. On a symbolic level “The Supremacy of the Male” attributes the coming into existence of a child primarily to male “pro- creation.” “The Supremacy of the Female”, contrarily, relates childbirth to conception, pregnancy and giving birth on part of the woman. “Theoretical, Spiritual and Political Natality versus Childbirth” pictures childbirth as lower in value as the realms of ideas, religion, the political or the arts. In contrast to this, “Harmony between Spiritual / Theoretical Natality and Childbirth” shows that spiritual birth and childbirth can also be intertwined. It is argued that different symbolic pat- terns of childbirth may imply different gender relations and different views on “life” in general. The theoretical part of the book is based on Hannah Arendt’s philosophy of natality and on Martin Heidegger whose ideas on death are used for a philosophical conception of the woman giving birth. Anja Hänsch earned her Ph.D. in Social Sciences from the Euro- pean University Institute, Florence. She has published on a wide range of topics in cultural studies, gender studies and compar- ative literature such as body theory, emigration and modernity in Arab and Franco-Arab literature, Orientalist masculinity, the Aladdin fairy-tale in the 1001 Nights and the conception of god- desses by scholars of the 20th century. ISBN 3-03910-432-2 www.peterlang.com AN JA H...

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