Jessica Dailey


I am a Ph.D. student 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 human reproduction—specifically, pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and related medical care. My research interests concern how reproductive care and practice 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 intend to continue to focus my research on maternity care, and expand upon the ethnographic work I conducted during my master's program. Focusing on alternative birth care in the San Francisco Bay Area, my work 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 of 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.