The next few months we’ll be highlighting authors who have published in Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry.
Sarah Rubin is an Associate Professor at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cleveland campus. She is a medical anthropologist who studies motherhood in the US and South Africa. She’s an advocate for health equity and reproductive justice. She lives in rural northeast Ohio with her family.
Joselyn Hines is a fourth-year medical student at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cleveland campus and psychiatry residency applicant. She has held many leadership positions within her medical school and local community. She is an active advocate and leader for underrepresented minority medical students and marginalized patient populations. She is passionate about destigmatizing mental illnesses and connecting the community to proper psychiatric care.
What is your article “As Long as I Got a Breath in My Body’’: Risk and Resistance in Black Maternal Embodiments” about?
This article explores the everyday experiences of Black mothers in Cleveland, OH as they navigate pregnancy and postpartum in the context of the racially disparate risk of infant death due to structural racism. These mothers articulated awareness of ways that racism causes them stress as they strive to have a healthy pregnancy and birth and raise their children well. We describe an embodied orientation toward motherhood that we call “betterment” where women attempt to overcome the disadvantages and oppressions of structural racism by centering their children, reconsidering and reconfiguring the social support they need to raise them, and by focusing on the future.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your research interests.
Rubin: I’ve always been fascinated by reproduction and motherhood and understanding “what it’s like” to mother in different contexts and circumstances. I work with mothers in South Africa as well as the US. Ethnography is my favorite way of engaging in research, but I also enjoy the breadth and multidimensionality of interdisciplinary collaborations. My favorite way to do research, though, is by engaging and mentoring students.
Hines: I am passionate about research on chronic stress in Black woman and its impact on the maternal and infant mortality health disparity in Cleveland, Ohio. I am interested in women’s mental health, reproductive psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry.
What drew you to this project?
Rubin: When I learned about the great racial disparity in infant mortality around our campus in Cleveland, OH and the role of chronic stress in creating and maintaining that disparity, I wondered what it looked like and felt like to mother under those conditions. We started with that phenomenological question, and it led us to an understanding of how structural racism is experienced and resisted by Black mothers.
Hines: Black women’s voices are often silenced and objectified in medicine. This project amplifies the voices and stories of Black women and sheds light on the struggles and obstacles that black women face and overcome to successfully parent.
What was one of the most interesting findings?
The Black mothers in our study demonstrate a love and commitment to their children that defy pathologizing discourses like “Welfare Queen;” but they also disrupt the positive trope of the “Superstrong Black mother,” which renders invisible the hardship and grief of living and mothering in a racist society. Our findings forge a middle path by showing how Black mothers’ bodies are shaped by the chronic stressors of structural racism but are also a source of resistance, especially in service to their children.
What are you reading, listening to, and/or watching right now?
Rubin: I’m reading Birthing Black Mothers by Jennifer C Nash. It’s a fascinating analysis of “Black motherhood” as a political symbol. It’s prompting me to reconsider my own analysis of Black motherhood, and also my positionality as a scholar. I’m also watching Season 10 of the Great British Baking Show. It’s a hug, nap, and cup of tea all rolled into one flaky pie crust. A working mother’s salve.
Hines: The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris
If there was one takeaway or action point you hope people will get from your work, what would it be?
Rubin: Listen to Black Mothers!
Hines: This project shows how social determinants of health are lived and embodied by vulnerable populations. Readers can use this information to better understand their perspective, provide holistic quality care, and to better advocate for systemic changes in society that can ultimately provide better health outcomes for and save the lives of Black mothers and babies.
Thank you for your time!
Other ways to connect:
Twitter: Sarah Rubin | Joselyn Hines
LinkedIn: Sarah Rubin
Other applicable website: Sarah Rubin