Fortress Press

Sacred Pregnancy: Birth, Motherhood, and the Quest for Spiritual Community

Sacred Pregnancy

Birth, Motherhood, and the Quest for Spiritual Community

Ann W. Duncan (Author)

$28.00

Available April 25, 2023

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Sacred Pregnancy is part a retrospective on changing paradigms of and feminist discourse on motherhood, part sociological study of changing religious demographics and understandings of religious experience in the United States, and part exploration of the spiritual movements and spiritually guided reproductive health services that bring all these themes together.

Resting on the premise that motherhood in general and pregnancy specifically should not be brushed aside as beneath intellectual inquiry or as settled subjects, Ann Duncan explores a new form of religious community: a growing number of diverse movements that blend business with a spiritual approach to the reproductive health of women. This new mode of spiritual ritual is centered not around a particular conception of the divine but by the shared experience of pregnancy and birth as sacred rites of passage and women's reproductive health as an avenue toward spiritual experience, community, and even economic opportunity.

These spiritual birth movements are an invitation to further investigate and understand not only the social construction of motherhood and the cultural understanding and practice of pregnancy, but also the life-changing experiences of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood and the concomitant desire for religious ritual in the lives of American women.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506485560
  • eBook ISBN 9781506485577
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 220
  • Publication Date April 25, 2023

Endorsements

As a woman, are you religious, or spiritual, or both? Whatever your answers to these questions may be, you will find meaning and context for them within the pages of this lovely book, which generates a much-needed connection between secular feminism and the spirituality of pregnancy and childbirth as a rite of passage.

Robbie Davis-Floyd, author of Birth as an American Rite of Passage

How should we understand the diverse and surprising rituals that have filled the vacuum around pregnancy and childbirth left by medicalization and religious inattention? This wonderful book raises fascinating questions about the value and limitations of this new spiritual entrepreneurship and will inspire readers to take these pivotal experiences more seriously and to rethink the nature of religion itself.

Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor Emerita of Religion, Psychology, and Culture, Vanderbilt University; author of Also a Mother: Work and Family as Theological Dilemma

In exploring contemporary forms of ritual and spiritual community focused on pregnancy, birth, and motherhood in the United States, Ann Duncan's Sacred Pregnancy contributes meaningfully not only to the field of religious studies but also to motherhood studies, secular studies, sociology, cultural anthropology, and feminist discourse. Duncan's work takes into consideration the evolving landscape of twenty-first-century American religion, looking especially at how unaffiliated religious individuals who live outside the bounds of institutional religion are undergoing important rites of passage when they become parents. Her close examination of the Sacred Living Movement and other communities devoted to spiritual reproductive services in the United States provides her readers with an understanding of how pregnancy, birth, and motherhood are sacralized and ritualized in the modern world.

Anna Hennessey, author of Imagery, Ritual, and Birth: Ontology between the Sacred and the Secular

Ann Duncan's work meets a long-standing need in religious studies: to address the intersection of religion not just with gender or women but precisely with motherhood. This exploration of various American spiritual birth movements and the 'religious nones' focuses on pregnancy and birth as central elements of motherhood, after an insightful contextualization of motherhood and feminism, with a focus on the American context. Sacred Pregnancy will undoubtedly shape many debates around the spiritual and ritual aspects of pregnancy and birth, bodily autonomy, agency and choice, and the status of mothers in medical, cultural, and religious discourses. This book also makes an important contribution to the academic discipline of religious studies by confronting paradigms of spirituality and religion, as well as definitions of religious experience and community through the lenses of maternal theory. Readers in religious studies, gender studies, and other disciplinary fields are invited to think beyond the boundaries that might constrain our access to and concepts of spiritual and religious experience. Ann Duncan's groundbreaking book also makes a strong case for intersectional approaches to recognize motherhood as one of the many identities that shape humans, in addition to race, class, and others.

Florence Pasche Guignard, assistant professor in religious studies, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, Université Laval

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