Postmodern and poststructuralist theorizations of the interrelations of the particular and the universal have identified women's bodies to be the last frontier for scientific discovery leading to and satisfying the modern compulsion to stabilize and control life from birth to death. This institutional ethnography of one city's response to an elevated infant mortality rate among the babies of African American urban, impoverished women explores their discursive transformation from single mothers who cannot begin prenatal care before the second trimester because too few physicians will treat Medicaid patients, into sexually-immoral, illegaldrug- using women who deliberately harm their babies. The study locates an education campaign poster depicting these women as undisciplined, ignorant, irresponsible mothers who use drugs that kill their babies at the intersection of the family discourse of the "good mother/bad mother" dualism and the obstetrics discourse of the frail female body. At this site, the everyday experience of urban minority impoverished women doing the work of mothering is transformed into evidence of their "natural" maternal inadequacy.

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