The birthing body has been a site for locating competing claims of control from much before the birth of modern medical knowledge, and the contestation carries on in our contemporary. What makes for variety within this long-standing contestation are of course the shifting terms of conflict. Broadly divided into three parts, this paper shall document the different formats and priorities of the contestation project, which has actually been synonymous with a contestation between the human attendants of birth. While in pre- and early modern times, especially in Western Europe, this conflict played out between female and male healers, primarily over the use and abuse of 'supernatural power', 19th century colonial Indian modernity saw the conflict played out between institutionalization of the elite birthing body and the collective of indigenous (i.e., 'non-modern') birth attendants. In the contemporary the contestation plays out between statist development, and a rather fleeting and often vacuous category of the traditional birth attendant.
Through these three sections what the paper shores up is the rather dynamic nature of violence that has – largely surreptitiously – been precipitated on the female, indigenous birth attendant by the male indigene, by the institution of modernity/obstetrics and by the development state.