Davis-Floyd, Robbie Elizabeth 1951-
DAVIS-FLOYD, Robbie Elizabeth 1951-
PERSONAL: Born April 26, 1951, in Casper, WY; daughter of Walter Gray (an independent oil operator) and Robbie (a homemaker and genealogist; maiden name, Peyton) Davis; married Robert N. Floyd (an architect), June 30, 1978; children: Peyton Elizabeth Floyd, Jason Phillip Floyd. Ethnicity: "Anglo." Education: Attended Wellesley College, 1969-70; University of Texas–Austin, B.A. (summa cum laude, special honors), 1972, M.A., 1974, Ph.D., 1986. Politics: Democrat. Religion: "Personal and eclectic." Hobbies and other interests: Travel, horseback riding, reading.
ADDRESSES: Office—3119 Lincoln Blvd., Cleveland Heights, OH 44118. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Centro de Artes y Lenguas Mexicanas, Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico, summer instructor of Spanish, 1975-76; St. Mary's Hall, San Antonio, TX, high school teacher, 1977-79; University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, adjunct assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, 1980-83; Trinity University, San Antonio, adjunct assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, 1987-89; University of Texas at Austin, lecturer, then senior lecturer of anthropology and senior research fellow, 1990-92, 1998—; Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, Flora Stone Mather Visiting Professor in anthropology, 2002-03, adjunct associate professor, 2003—; Antioch College, member of research faculty, 2004-04. Rice University, visiting lecturer of anthropology, 1993, 1996, 1999; visiting lecturer at Baylor Medical School, 1999, and Southern Methodist University, 2002. Midwifery Certification Task Force, board member, 1994-97; North American Registry of Midwives, board member, 1994—; Council for European Studies, participant in International Research Planning Groups Program, 1997-99; Coalition for Improving Maternity Services, editorial committee member, 1995—, and member of council, 1999—; BirthWorks, Inc., member of board of advisors, 1998—; Maternity Center Association Institute for Family-Centered Maternity Care, member of national advisory council, 1998-2000. Speaker and lecturer and presenter at conferences in the United States and abroad.
MEMBER: American Anthropological Association, American College of Nurse-Midwives (friend of the College), American Holistic Medical Association, Association for Feminist Anthropology, Association for Pre-and Perinatal Psychology and Health (board member), Council on Anthropology and Reproduction, Council on the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing, Society for Humanistic Anthropology (executive board member, 2003-05), Society for Medical Anthropology (executive board member, 2004-07), Society for the Social Study of Science, Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi.
AWARDS, HONORS: National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, summer seminar for college teachers, 1980; faculty development grant, Trinity University, 1988-89; University of Texas research fellow, 1994; Academy of Consciousness Studies fellow, Princeton University, 1994; Institute of Noetic Sciences grant, 1995-97; American Society for Psychoprophylaxis in Obstetrics/Lamaze Research Award, 1996; Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research grant, 1996-98, 1999-2000; research grants, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1996-98, and Honeywell Corporation, 1998, both for Space Stories: Oral Histories from the Pioneers of the American Space Program; Cyborg Babies: From Techno-Sex to Techno-Tots named one of top twenty-five books of 1998, Village Voice, 1998.
(Author of afterword) Rima Beth Star, The Healing Power of Birth, Star Publishing (Austin, TX), 1986.
(Editor) Paul Bohannan, We the Alien: An Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (instructors' manual), Waveland Press (Prospect Heights, IL), 1991.
Birth As an American Rite of Passage, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1992, 2nd edition, with new preface, 2003.
(Editor and author of introduction) Brigitte Jordan, Birth in Four Cultures, 4th edition, Waveland Press (Prospect Heights, IL), 1993.
(Editor) Richard Katz, The Straight Path: A Fijian Perspective on Healing and Development, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1993.
(Editor and author of introduction, with Carolyn F. Sargent, and contributor) Childbirth and Authoritative Knowledge: Cross-Cultural Perspectives, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1997.
(Editor) Richard Katz, Megan Biesele, and Verna St. Denis, "Healing Makes Our Hearts Happy": Spirituality and Social Change among the Kalahari Ju'/hoansi, Inner Traditions Press (Rochester, VT), 1997.
(Editor, with Sven Arvidson, and contributor) Intuition: The Inside Story, Routledge (New York, NY), 1997.
(Editor, with Joseph Dumit, and contributor) Cyborg Babies: From Techno-Sex to Techno-Tots, Routledge (New York, NY), 1998.
(With Gloria St. John) From Doctor to Healer: The Transformative Journey, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 1998.
(Editor) Ronald L. Grimes, Deeply into the Bone: Reinventing Rites of Passage, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2000.
(With Kenneth J. Cox) Bucky Balls, Fullerenes, and the Future: An Oral History Interview with Professor Richard E. Smalley, Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary Research (Houston, TX), 2001.
(Editor, with Ivy Bourgeault and Cecilia Benoit) Reconceiving Midwives: The New Canadian Model of Care, McGill-Queens University Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.
(Editor, with Christina Johnson) Mainstreaming Midwives: The Politics of Professionalization, Routledge (New York, NY), 2005.
(Editor, with Marcia Good Maust and Miguel Guémez Piñeda) Midwives in Mexico: Continuity, Controversy, and Change, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 2005.
Editor, with Carolyn F. Sargent, of The Social Production of Authoritative Knowledge in Childbirth, special edition of Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 1996. Contributor to books, including The Life Cycle of Women: New Anthropological Approaches, University of Houston Press (Houston, TX), 1983; Cultural Constructions of Woman, edited by Pauline Kolenda, Sheffield Press (Salem, WI), 1987; The Anthropology of Science and Technology, edited by David J. Hess and Linda L. Layne, JAI Press (Hartford, CT), 1992; The Encyclopedia of Childbearing: Critical Perspectives, edited by Barbara Katz Rothman, Oryx Press (Phoenix, AZ), 1993; Feminist Theory in the Study of Folklore, edited by Susan Tower Hollis, Linda Pershing, and M. J. Young, University of Illinois Press (Champaign, IL), 1993; Many Mirrors: Body Image and Social Relations, Rutgers University Press, 1994; Holistic Midwivery: A Comprehensive Textbook for Midwives in Homebirth Practice, Volume 1, Labyrs Press (Portland, OR), 1995; Trust Your Body! Trust Your Baby, by Andrea Henkart, Greenwood Press/Bergin & Garvey (New Haven, CT), 1995; The Blackwell Dictionary of Anthropology, edited by Thomas J. Barfield, Blackwell Publishers (Oxford, England), 1996; The Ecology of Health, Sage Publications (Thousand Oaks, CA), 1996; Gender and Health: An International Perspective, edited by Carolyn F. Sargent and Caroline Brettell, Prentice-Hall (Upper Saddle River, NJ), 1996; Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective, edited by C. Brettell and C. F. Sargent, Prentice-Hall, 1997; The Performance of Healing, edited by Carol Laderman and Marina Roseman, Routledge, 1997; Corporate Futures, edited by George Marcus, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1998; Conspiracy Theories, University of Chicago Press, 1999; Oxford Companion to the Body, edited by Colin Blakemore, Oxford University Press, 1999; Birth by Design: The Social Shaping of Maternity Care in Northern Europe and North America, edited by Raymond DeVries and others, Routledge, 2001; and Consuming Motherhood, edited by Danielle Wozniak and others, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 2004.
Contributor to periodicals, including American Anthropologist, American Ethnologist, Anthropology of Consciousness, Birth, Birth Gazette, Childbirth Alternatives Quarterly, Feminist Studies, Human Organization, International Journal of Childbirth Education, International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Journal of American Folklore, Journal of Humanistic Anthropology, Journal of Perinatal Education, Lancet, Man, Medical Humanities Review, Midwifery Today, Mothering, Pre-and PerinatalPsychology Journal, Signs, Social Science and Medicine, Special Delivery, and Texas Monthly. Editorial board member of Journal of Pre-and Perinatal Psychology. Editor, with others, of "Life Passages" series, for University of California Press.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Coediting Birth Models That Work, for the University of California Press; coauthoring The Anatomy of Ritual, for Random House; coauthoring Space Stories: Oral Histories from the Pioneers of America's Space Program, an oral history project for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, NASA Alumni League, and Johnson Space Center; Grieving and Grace: A Chronicle; various articles.
SIDELIGHTS: Robbie Elizabeth Davis-Floyd is a research fellow at the University of Texas at Austin and a visiting lecturer at Rice University in Houston, Texas. She is a medical and symbolic anthropologist specializing in the anthropology of reproduction, medical anthropology, ritual and gender studies, and the anthropology of science and technology. Much of Davis-Floyd's writing deals with childbirth. In some works she focuses on the experiences of women as they give birth, and in others she writes of the motivations and ideologies of midwives—trained professionals who assist other women during childbirth.
For her book Birth As an American Rite of Passage, Davis-Floyd interviewed over one hundred women about their pregnancy and childbirth experiences, seeking to understand the relationships among the obstetrical management of childbirth, women's desires, and the American culture. She describes birth as a cultural rite of passage and interprets standard obstetrical procedures such as electronic fetal monitoring as rituals that convey the core values of the American technocracy to women in labor. These core values, she suggests, center around an ideology of technological progress. Because most American women participate in this core value system, they often welcome birth technologies that make them feel safe and well-cared for, in spite of scientific evidence showing that these procedures may do more harm than good.
Library Journal contributor Patricia Sarles deemed Birth As an American Rite of Passage "a brilliant feminist analysis of childbirth rites of passage" as well as a "beautiful book full of insightful interviews." Reviewing the same work in the New York Times Book Review, Sara Ruddick "wanted more discussion of mothering" but agreed with the author's "suspicion of technocratic values and can imagine the act of giving birth becoming an occasion for philosophical and political as well as personal transformation." Ruddick also praised the "generous, critical, passionate spirit that animates this book."
Davis-Floyd revised and updated Brigitte Jordan's Birth in Four Cultures, a groundbreaking book that sparked the development of a new subdiscipline—the anthropology of childbirth—and definitively demonstrated the pervasive influence of cultural beliefs of birthing systems based on objective science. In Childbirth and Authoritative Knowledge: Cross-Cultural Perspectives, Davis-Floyd and coeditor Carolyn F. Sargent develop Jordan's notion of authoritative knowledge, the knowledge that people use to make decisions and take action in specific situations. This work contains ethnographic material about birth in sixteen cultures and highlights the vast differences between birthing systems that give the authority of knowledge to women and their communities and those that invest it in experts and machines. Contributing a chapter to this volume, Davis-Floyd describes midwives' trust in intuition as a powerful and fully embodied way of knowing about birth.
Davis-Floyd's childbirth studies have taken her to the outer edges of anthropology. In Cyborg Babies: From Techno-Sex to Techno-Tots, she writes about her personal struggles with the evolutionary implications of the cyborgification of birth. A cyborg is a fusion of organic (living) and technological components. Davis-Floyd has also researched the tensions of contemporary midwives in the United States and Mexico as they combine new technology and ancient wisdom and try to define their place in a high-tech postmodern world. She describes the midwives' shifting identities and the globalization of their ideologies and political concerns by using the phrase "postmodern midwifery."
Davis-Floyd once told CA: "For most of my publishing career, I have thought of myself as an anthropologist. The invitation to be included in this volume made me think of myself as a writer too. If I have any writing skill, I hope that I will always use it to bring the magic and rich insights I derive from anthropological research to those who can benefit the most from these insights. When I study midwives, for example, as I am doing now, I write first and foremost for midwifery journals and books. When I interviewed women about their birth experiences, I tried to write a book that would be as accessible and useful to the women I interviewed as to anthropology students and birth professionals.
"In the tradition of Margaret Mead, I have always seen myself as a bridge between academia and the general public, and I have tried to also bridge the gap between academic study and personal life. I care passionately about the subjects I study, and I tend to study subjects that enhance my own understanding of my life and the world I live in. Because so many of the talks I give are to groups I study, like midwives and physicians, every lecturer enriches my later writing, and every trip offers me chances to learn more. Travel, research, and writing are ways of living for me; they are fully intertwined and mutually enriching. I hope I can continue to convey a sense of that mutual enrichment in my published work."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Anthropologist, June, 2001, David Hakken, review of Cyborg Babies: From Techno-Sex to Techno-Tots, p. 535.
Contemporary Sociology, January, 1999.
Library Journal, August, 1992.
New York Times Book Review, November 8, 1992.
Population and Development Review, September, 1994, pp. 675-676.
Readings: A Journal of Reviews and Commentary in Mental Health, March, 1994, pp. 16-19.