Show Less
Restricted access

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.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

III.2 Theoretical, Spiritual and Political Natality Versus Childbirth


← 100 | 101 →


The symbolic pattern of childbirth labeled “The Supremacy of the Male,” presented itself as accentuating the importance of the man for the coming into existence of a child. In the symbolic pattern of childbirth entitled “Theoretical, Spiritual and Political Natality versus Childbirth,” the question of whether the male or the female plays a greater part in the generation of children is left aside. This question that informed “The Supremacy of the Male” becomes subordinate to the search for different kinds of “mortal immortalities” and new beginnings. What does this mean?

In his Rites and Symbols of Initiation, Mircea Eliade studied the religious rituals that may accompany and bring about a spiritual rebirth.279 Referring to tribal societies Eliade writes that “attaining to another mode of being – that of spirit – is equivalent to being born a second time, to becoming a new man. The most striking expression of newness is birth. The discovery of spirit is homologized to the appearance of life.”280 In the symbolic pattern “Theoretical, Spiritual and Political Natality versus Childbirth” such a homologization of the “discovery of spirit” and “the appearance of life” has fallen apart. Furthermore, the important feature of the symbolic pattern to be dealt with in this section is not only that the desire for a “mortal immortality” and a new beginning is fulfilled by a spiritual rebirth and detached from childbirth, but that “conception,” “procreation,” giving birth, and...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.