Jessica Dailey


I am a Ph.D. candidate in the department of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. I hold a B.A. in anthropology from Sonoma State University (2014), and an M.A. in sociocultural anthropology, with a special focus in medical anthropology, from San Francisco State University (2019). My work focuses on medical decision-making, birth care, and political economy of health in the Northern San Francisco Bay Area in California. My research interests concern how medical care and practice around birth create a space which connects large-scale social, political, and historical forces, and individual bodies, families, and lives—and as such, provide a means to critically view and better understand the movements of power through contemporary societies.

My work on my Master’s Degree at San Francisco State focused on alternative forms of prenatal and birth care in Sonoma County, California. I conducted original ethnographic fieldwork among a small community who actively sought out nonbiomedical forms of care, including midwife-attended homebirth. The results of this research led to a series of interesting considerations about how medical decision-making that favors non-dominant forms of care can express resistance to medical power and authority, convey one’s class position, and also demonstrate one’s belonging to a group.

At the University of Notre Dame, I am continuing to focus my research on maternity care, and expanding upon the ethnographic work I have previously conducted. Focusing on alternative birth care in the Northern San Francisco Bay Area and funded by the National Science Foundation, my dissertation explores how medical decision-making is mediated by a locally specific social contexts—such as shared community beliefs and values related to health, the body, and the nature of care relationships. It is my hope that interrogating how social dynamics can render resistance against medical authority attractive—and in certain cases, necessary—can uncover ways to better understand resistance against mainstream medical and scientific power and knowledge more broadly.