Eileen Wang

Penn Humanities Forum Undergraduate Fellow

20152016 Forum on Sex

Eileen Wang

Health and Societies

College of Arts and Sciences, 2016

Eileen is a senior majoring in Health and Societies, with a concentration in global health, and minoring in Anthropology. Her research interests revolve around exploring issues of maternal-child health and reproductive rights, and especially in understanding how biomedicine, the state, and cultural norms shape the childbirth experience across different contexts. Eileen’s honors thesis, "Doctor, Just Do the Cesarean", uses ethnographic methods to understand the relatively common phenomenon of cesarean deliveries on maternal request in urban China, in a context where reproduction and health care are both highly regulated. Aside from the PHF Fellowship, she is also the recipient of the Gelfman International Summer Research Grant, Department of Anthropology grant, Penn Museum grant and Seltzer Digital Media Award for her research. At Penn, she is a Benjamin Franklin Scholar and is actively involved in synchronized swimming, GlobeMed, and volunteering for United Community Clinic.

Choice, Control and Childbirth: Cesarean Deliveries on Maternal Request in Shanghai, China

Cesarean deliveries on maternal request (CDMR) have become increasingly common in China within the past 20 years, coinciding with the dramatic rise in cesarean section rates. In recent years, the state has tried to control the escalation of cesarean section rates by restricting those that are considered medically “unnecessary” and particularly those requested by mothers. Drawing upon eight weeks of ethnographic fieldwork and 34 interviews with women, providers and family members at a district hospital in Shanghai, I plan to present a chapter on my thesis focusing on the negotiations among the state, provider and woman over control of the childbirth process at the point of cesarean decision-making. I will show that even in light of the recent state regulations circumscribing CDMR, women nevertheless continue to successfully request cesareans and navigate state and medical authority. However, such “legitimate” requests break down along socioeconomic lines; those who request it successfully must have a certain knowledge base, social or economic capital, or proof of some valid risk calculation to convince the doctor to deviate from her “scientific judgment.”