Obstetric Racism in Indiana: How Hoosier Doulas Resist Anti-Black Racism in Birth

Professors of anthropology Julie Johnson Searcy and Angela Castañeda will utilize oral histories to gather the experiences of Black Hoosier doulas as they serve families across the state. Doulas are birth workers who offer informational, emotional and embodied support to people giving birth; they move between homes and hospitals as they extend prenatal education, support during labor and postpartum care. Research on Black birth workers notes that doulas often see themselves as mediators between women and the obstetric racism they may face in hospitals. There is power in shared stories about supporting birth, for these stories can reveal the strategies for navigating racial injustice at a crucial moment for families. By gathering the stories of Black doulas who have their own private practice and doulas who work for collectives such as the Indiana Minority Health Coalition, this project will offer a unique lens into examples of structural racism that women experience during birth, and it will document the ways that Black families and Black doulas navigate, uplift and support women through their work.

To learn more about the project and its outcomes, visit the Indiana Black Doula Project website.

Julie Johnson Searcy is an assistant professor of anthropology at Butler University. She holds a doctorate in communication and culture and in anthropology from Indiana University. She has researched and published extensively on topics such as the anthropology of reproduction, medical anthropology, feminist anthropology, gender, labor and race. She received the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation for her work on birth and HIV in South Africa and the Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowship in Women’s Studies, along with Butler University’s Future Faculty Teaching Fellowship and the Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences Dissertation Fellowship. She is also a practicing community doula. 

Angela Castañeda is professor and Lester Martin Jones Professor of Anthropology at DePauw University. She holds both a master’s degree and a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Indiana University. Her research in Brazil, Mexico and the United States explores questions on religion, ritual, expressive culture and the anthropology of reproduction. She has published on the performance of Afro-Caribbean identity, the commercialization of Brazilian religious traditions and mothering in a neoliberal world. Castañeda is a practicing birth and postpartum doula with El Centro Comunal Latino, where she also volunteers as a Spanish childbirth educator.

Nicole Burts is the assistant director of student recruitment for the IUPUI McKinney School of Law. She holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from DePauw University and a juris doctor degree from Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. She is a published historian and reproductive justice advocate.