Eliza Williamson

Areas of Interest: 
childbirth, care, policy, anthropology of ethics, anthropology of the state, anthropology of reproduction, feminist anthropology, Brazil, Latin America, humanization of birth, Zika virus, microcephaly




Broadly, my academic interests lie in the intersections of reproduction, ethics, and the state. I’m particularly interested in how care in childbirth is practiced and experienced, and how activists and state actors work to mitigate obstetric violence in perinatal health services.

My dissertation research explores the current paradigm shift in Brazilian birth care, from “technocratic” to “humanized.” In response to persistently elevated maternal mortality rates and a high proportion of surgical deliveries, Brazil has launched a nationwide program of birth care reform for the public health system: Rede Cegonha (Stork Network). My fieldwork tracks this program from the national Ministry of Health to the local health agencies, clinics, and communities of Salvador, Bahia, in order to understand how the paradigm of humanization is mobilized through health policy to change in entrenched obstetric practices, as well as how those involved in and affected by the program’s implementation—government agents, healthcare professionals, and women obstetric patients—imagine, enact, and experience these dramatic shifts in perinatal care.

As the Zika virus outbreak has emerged, I have also begun exploring the social implications of congenital Zika transmission and microcephaly in Northeastern Brazil. What valences, for example, does “humanized birth” take on where reproduction is threatened by a mosquito-borne disease linked to fetal malformations?

My BAs are in Women & Gender Studies and Spanish & Portuguese. I have conducted ethnographic research on healthcare in the United States, Argentina, and Brazil. At Rice, I am a certificate student in the Center for The Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, and I am also involved in the Social Science Graduate Student Association, Rice Left, the Contemporary Social Movements student-led course, and the Women’s Resource Center. Before coming to Rice, I worked in community outreach around the issue of sexual assault. I currently co-edit the biannual newsletter for the Council on Anthropology and Reproduction.

Profile on Academia.edu: https://rice.academia.edu/ElizaWilliamson


Eliza Williamson
Graduate Student