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Delivering Health
Midwifery and Development in Mexico

Author(s): Lydia Z. Dixon

Maternal health outcomes are a key focus of global health initiatives. In Delivering Health, author Lydia Z. Dixon uncovers the ways such outcomes have been shaped by broader historical, political, and social factors in Mexico, through the perspectives of those who are at the front lines fighting for change: midwives.

Midwives have long been marginalized in Mexico as remnants of the country's precolonial past, yet Dixon shows how they are now strategically positioning themselves as agents of modernity and development. Midwifery education programs have popped up across Mexico, each with their own critique of the health care system and vision for how midwifery can help. Delivering Health ethnographically examines three such schools with very different educational approaches and professional goals. From San Miguel de Allende to Oaxaca to Michoacán and points between, Dixon takes us into the classrooms, clinics, and conferences where questions of what it means to provide good reproductive health care are being taught, challenged, and implemented. Through interviews, observational data, and even student artwork, we are shown how underlying inequality manifests in poor care for many Mexican women. The midwives in this book argue that they can improve care while also addressing this inequality. Ultimately, Delivering Health asks us to consider the possibility that marginalized actors like midwives may hold the solution to widespread concerns in health.

Biography of Author(s)

Lydia Z. Dixon is an assistant professor of Health Science at California State University, Channel Islands.


  • "In this deft analysis of contemporary Mexican midwifery, anthropologist Lydia Dixon incisively reveals how Mexican midwives' unique positionality, at once outside and inside mainstream medicine, enables them to humanize childbirth and advance social justice. Through superb ethnographic skills and lucid prose, Dixon offers a nuanced portrait of midwives' perpetual challenges and surprising resilience. While regulating women's bodies remains essential to state-building and national development worldwide, Mexican midwives are expanding the terms of these processes."
    Carole H. Browner, editor of Reproduction, Globalization, and the State: New Theoretical and Ethnographic Perspectives
  • "Lydia Z. Dixon offers an in-depth look at the history of midwifery in Mexico and provides an astute analysis of how midwives have constructed a politics of radical care through their critique of health systems. Delivering Health is an important contribution to the study of not only midwifery, but also to understanding how midwives' labor is indeed a form of social, political, and reproductive justice. This book is essential reading for those concerned about global maternal health and the politics and practice of midwifery."
    Dána-Ain Davis, author of Reproductive Injustice: Racism, Pregnancy, and Premature Birth