Membres | Jeunes docteurs



Coordonnées professionnelles


Current research

  • PhD research on the alternatives and the biomedical knowledge and techniques of childbirth pain’s relief in France and in Quebec (Canada)
  • Member of the “HYPMEDPRO” international research team on the hyper medicalization of birth as a public health problem. Website:

Fields of expertise (in research)

Reproductive Studies, Sociology of Health & Social Policies, Gender Women’s and Sexuality Studies, Sociology of Work & Professions, Science Technology and Society Studies, Sociology of Emotions, Medical Anthropology, Qualitative Methodology, Comparative Research


« Humanizing » Childbirth Pain

Risking Uncertainty and Experimenting Birth Centers (France, Québec)

Dr. Ilana Löwy (supervisor), Dr. Marc Bessin (co-supervisor), EHESS, ED 286

From a comparative perspective with the province of Québec, as a figure of perinatal “modernity” in the French’s gaze, this dissertation describes the transformations of biomedical knowledge and practice on ordinary reproduction. It studies the emergence and development of a new apparatus consisting in “humanized” medicalization of birth in the middle of the 20th century. It specifically examines the example of the management of women’s pain during childbirth. This normalizing apparatus was based on a paradigm shift instituted by social movements against the process of medicalization of birth, international recommendations published by the World Health Organization and the transformation of perinatal care provision through the experimentation of birth centers. This research further scrutinizes the way in which this apparatus was received and implemented in France and in Quebec. Examining the “humanized” management of women’s pain during childbirth from sociological point of view this dissertation reveals a process of medical knowledge production of risks and uncertainties: their unequivocal belonging to an exceptional dimension specific to the female sex and their potential dangerousness requiring a supposed medical intervention before and during childbirth. These risks and uncertainties are supported by new biomedical techniques as well as by psychological theories on gender and reproductive health. This dissertation draws on hundred semi-structured in depth interviews with women and health professionals, enriched by an analysis of archives – including scientific publications and perinatal policy documents – and an ethnography of birthing centers and affiliated hospitals. This research shows that the construction of medical knowledge and practice on childbirth’s pain produces some forms of ignorance and resistance within the current French medical field to abandon this “risk-based” paradigm that has now long been criticized. The uncertainties of childbirth pain raised controversies on the place and uses of technological interventions in the context of ordinary reproduction. These controversies engender a hybridization of knowledge and practices, contributing to the persistence of competing models of care. Focusing on the political and instrumental dimensions of women’s childbirth pain, this dissertation highlights that the “humanized” childbirth’s pain continues to be based on a regime of truth underpinned by the production of risks and ignorance. The epistemic tensions produced by this regime of truth transform women’s relationship to pain. Resulting of the entanglement of risks’ reversal, a politicization of affects and a paradoxical cultural and militant re-appropriation, pain becomes a tool of resistance and a form of self-production. Some women and midwives collectively seize it upon in order to develop a perinatal activism, despite the contemporary naturalization of women's pain and the risks of some social stratification exacerbation that accompany this "humanization of birth".

  • Keywords : Gender ; Social Norms ; Health ; Pain ; Childbirth ; Risk ; Uncertainty ; Epistemologies of Ignorance ; Controversies ; Sciences Studies ; Work ; Organization ; Medical Professions ; Reproductive Justice ; Feminist Studies ; Affects


  • 2014-2022, PhD candidate in Sociology EHESS, France (dissertation defense: June 2022)
  • 2017-2019, Visiting Scholar, University of California San Diego, USA, Sciences Studies Program (Dr. Cathy Gere)
  • 2015-2016, Visiting Scholar, McGill University, Canada, Department of Social Studies of Medicine (Dr. George Weisz)
  • 2014, Master degree 2 in Social Sciences (EHESS)
    "The ambivalent “pleasure-pains” of birthing; a study of social management of female pain"
    , supervision Dr. Marc Bessin, 229p., EHESS, Department of Health, Population, and Social Policies, Paris, France, Summa cum Laude
  • 2014, University Diploma"Multidisciplinary management of perinatal pain: Maternal, fetal, and neonatal aspects" University of Paris-Diderot, Paris7, France, Summa cum Laude
  • 2012, Master degree 1 in Social Sciences, department of Health, Population, Social Politics (EHESS)
    "“Support among fellow inmates”, experimental plan of suicide prevention in prison environments"
    , supervision Dr. Marc Bessin, EHESS and University of Paris 13, Paris, France, Summa cum Laude
  • 2011, Midwifery Master degree
    School of midwifery, Suresnes, France – Summa cum Laude, with distinction.
    Research thesis: "Sociological analysis of pregnant women’s understanding of trisomy 21 in the context of prenatal screening", supervision Dr. Bénédicte Champenois-Rousseau and Odile Houziaux, Summa cum Laude, with distinction.

Fellowships & Grants

  • 2018, “Cultural Areas” EHESS Scholarship for mobility exchange at the University of California, San Diego in the Department of Sciences Studies invited by Dr. Cathy Gere
  • 2017-2018, IFRIS Fellowship, Support for the circulation of doctoral students
  • 2015-2016, Laureate of the Labex TEPSIS Fellowship Program for fieldwork and mobility exchange at the McGill University in the Department of Social Studies of Medicine invited by Dr. George Weisz
  • 2014-2017, Doctoral Fellowship. The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research & School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS)
  • 2013, Laureate of the Mustela Foundation: Maieutic Prize 2013 Research Scholarship for the Master of Social Science research
  • 2013, Laureate of the FEHAP (Federation of Hospital and Personal Aid Establishments): Research Scholarship for the Master of Social Science Research

Teaching & Courses

  • 2017-2021, Visiting scholar, UC San Diego, USA
    • Psychological-Medical Anthropology Seminar, Researcher & graduate student seminar
    • Science Studies Colloquium, Lab seminar, Researcher & Graduate student seminar
    • Survey of the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge: Feminist Science Studies, Dr. Martha Lampland (Sociology 238)
    • Living in an Emotional World, Dr. Saiba Varma (Anthropology 227)
  • 2016-2017, Co-organizer of the research seminar in Sociology, Anthropology, History and Medicine with S. Topçu, I.  Löwy and C. Quagliariello, EHESS, Paris, France: "Reproductive and Childbirth Technologies: Regulation of Risk, Government of the Body, Public Controversies" (24h)
    • Sciences, Technology and Society Studies about the Medicalization of Pregnancy and Childbirth in Western Country, Feminism Studies
  • 2016-2017, Lecturer, Bachelor in Health and Social Sciences, University of Bobigny, Department of Health, Medicine, Human Biology, Paris, France: "Social Science Research Techniques – To Observe" and "Social Science Research Techniques - The Survey" (64h: 4h lecture course & 60h tutorial course)
    • Qualitative Methodology in Social Science: Observation & Survey, Theory & Methodology in Sociology, Quantitative Methodology, Introduction to Statistical Methodology
  • 2016-2017, Lecturer, School of Midwives Foch " Concepts & Qualitative Methodology in Sociology", University of Versailles, Department of Medicine, Paris-West (24h: 15h lecture course & 9h tutorial)
    • Sociology of Health and the Social Determinants of Health, Sociology of Professions, Sociology of Work, Sociology of The Family, Gender and Women’s Studies, Qualitative Methodology (Theory and Method)
  • 2015-2016, Visiting scholar, McGill, Canada
    • Social Studies of Medicine Seminar, Lab seminar, Researcher & Graduate student seminar
    • Modern Medicine Seminar, Dr. Thomas Schlich (History 458 002)
    • Social Science & Health Seminar (Q3S), Researcher & Graduate student seminar
  • 2015-2016, Visiting Lecturer, "History and Development of the Midwifery in France since 1803", University of Quebec Trois-Rivières, Canada, Midwifery Education Program (2h lecture course)
    • Sociology of Health and Health Policy, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Oral Communications in Conferences

Scientific Communications


  • Arnal M.,"The Contemporary Alternative Biomedicalization of Pain during Childbirth"Annual Meeting of the International Sociological Association, « Democracy, Environment, Inequalities, Intersectionality », Porto Alegre, Brazil, February 23rd-27th
  • Arnal M.,"The Multiple Risks of a Stratified Medicalization of Childbirth Pain"Annual Meeting of the International Sociological Association, « Democracy, Environment, Inequalities, Intersectionality », Porto Alegre, Brazil, February 23rd-27th


  • Arnal M.,"Negotiating Pain During Childbirth as Resistance to Harm: An Analysis of Competing Institutionalized Models of Knowledge Production in Maternity Care Organization in France and in Canada", Annual Meeting of the Society for Studies of Science « Locating and Timing Matters », Prague, Czech Republic, August 18th-21th


  • Arnal M.,"Producing Midwifery Knowledge, from Subjective Thought to Objective Expertise: The case of the Biomedicalization of Pain during Childbirth" Annual Meeting of the Society for Studies of Science « Innovations, Interruptions, Regenerations », New Orleans, USA, September 4th-7th


  • Arnal M.,"Childbirth and its pains as work. Practicing a materialist perspective and putting gender in order "International Congress of Feminist Research in La Francophonie" Spaces and Challenges of Feminist Knowledge: Realities, Struggles, Utopias "Paris X University, Nanterre, France, August 27th-31th
  • Arnal M., "Births and Collective Mobilizations in France and in Quebec, the Multiple Voices of a "Feminist" So-called Materialization of Motherhood" International Congress of Feminist Research in La Francophonie "Spaces and stakes of feminist knowledge: realities, struggles, utopias" Paris Nanterre University, France, August 27th-31th


  • Arnal M., "The Biomedicalization of Pain for Women, from Bodies to the Political Senses: The Case of Chidbirth"Annual Meeting of the Society for Studies of Science « STS (In)Sensibilities » Boston, USA, September 2sd- August 2sd
  • Arnal M., "The Power of Women and the Knowledge of Bodies? Sociology of the Practice of Relief of Childbirth Pain in the Field of Health"7th Congress of the AFS "Sociology of Powers, Powers of sociology" University of Picardie Jules Vernes, Amiens, France, July 3rd-6th
  • Arnal M., "A Comparative Research of the Relief of Pain during Childbirth in France and Quebec" PhD Student Conference, IRIS, Paris, France, June 21th -22sd
  • Arnal M.," Relieve Childbirth Pain, Towards a Re.production of Knowledge?"Conference of Canadian Anthropology Society, CASCA/IUAES, Ottawa, Canada, May 2sd-7th


  • Arnal M.," The Essence of Pain Relief during Childbirth in Quest of Senses " Third Conference of the International Sociology Association: "Senses, Society, and Struggles for a Better World" Vienne, Austria, July 10th-14th
  • Arnal M., " Midwives, the Resurgence of an Old Profession in Quebec" Mid-Term Conference of the European Sociology Association on "New Directions in Health Care Work and Organizations"Panel "Emerging and Resurgent Actors in Health Contexts", Lisbon, Portugal, May 19th-21th
  • Arnal M., "Natural Childbirth or a Window Display Obstetrics Market in France? "Mid-Term Conference of the European Sociology Association, Panel "Maternity Care in Europe: Social Changes and Institutional Challenges" Lisbon, Portugal, May 19th-21th


  • Arnal M. and Boulet E., "Re.production: Looking at Pregnancy and Birth via Materialist Theories"7th International Congress of Feminist Research in the Francophone World, Montreal, August 24th-28th
  • Arnal M.,"Birthing as Sexualized Work. Treating Birthing Pain and Putting Gender in its Place: What is at Stake Between the Sexes?" Summer University of Rédoc "Researching on Gender: Issues and Perspectives", Brest, June 22sd-26th
  • Arnal M.,"Between Sex and Gender: a Sociological Analysis of Norms Taking Into Account Birthing Pain" 13th Conference of French National College of Midwifery, Paris, February 2sd



  • Arnal M., "Pains and Birth: a Public Health Issue?" PaMaNa Association's Annual Conference "Pain, Not Even Afraid! " Cergy-Pontoise, June 14th


  • Arnal M., "The Use of Genders Studies in a Qualitative Research. The Case of the Multiple Uses of Epidural Anesthesia in Obstetric" Master and Doctoral Research Seminar, University of Nanterre, France, June 28th
  • Arnal M., "Relief of the Pains of Childbirth, a Controversial Socio-Technical Stake? Socio-History of a Physiological Utopia" Research Seminar "Reproductive and Childbirth Technologies: Regulation of Risk, Government of the Body, Public Controversies"EHESS, Paris, France, February 20th


  • Arnal M., "What Can We Think and Do about the Health Policies and Politic Management on the Experimentation of Birth Centers in France?" Rountable of the French Birth Center (CALM), Necker Hospital, Paris, France, December 5th
  • Arnal M.,"On the Refusal of Epidural Anesthesia and the Joint Rise of Birth Centers in France et in Québec", International Workshop on " "Medicalized"Childbirth as a Public Problem: Risk Culture(s), Gender Politics, Techno-Reflexivities", EHESS, Paris, France, September 29th-30th


  • Arnal M., « Women and Pain During Childbirth, a Social Question in France? », University of Quebec Trois-Rivières, Midwifery Education Program, Trois-Rivières, Canada, November 17th


  • Arnal M.,"The Work of Birthing Pain: What Body Techniques are Established Between "Production" and "Reproduction"?" Workshop "Gender, Procreative Norms and Perinatology", EHESS, Paris, France, October 31th
  • Arnal M.,"A Sociological Work on Women’ Pain Today in France. What is Taken Into Account?", Jean Cohen’s Workshop – Gynecology, Obstetrics, and Reproduction, Paris, France, November 21th


  • Arnal M.,"The Pains and Birth: History and Feminist Perspectives", Annual Conference of CALM (the French birth center): "'Natural' Birthing: Liberation or Alienation?", Paris, France, May 22sd
  • Arnal M.,"Pain and Birth: Management and Representations", Workshops "Gender, Procreative Norms, and Perinatology", EHESS, Paris, France, Avril 3rd


Peer-reviewed papers

  • 2021, Arnal M. with Petitprez, K., Mattuizzi, A., Guillaume, S., Artzner, F., Bernard, C., Sentilhes, L. and als, Normal delivery: physiologic support and medical interventions. Guidelines of the French National Authority for Health (HAS) with the collaboration of the French College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians (CNGOF) and the French College of Midwives (CNSF). The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, 1-10
  • 2020, Arnal M., The Transformations of Medicalization of Pain Relief in the Organization of Perinatal Care System in Quebec, Social Theory and Health, 1-26
  • 2020, Arnal M. with Petitprez, K., Mattuizzi, A., Guillaume, S., Artzner, F., Bernard, C., Sentilhes, L. and als, Normal delivery: physiologic support and medical interventions. Guidelines of the French National Authority for Health (HAS) with the collaboration of the French College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians (CNGOF) and the French College of Midwives (CNSF), Gynécologie Obstétrique Fertilité & Sénologie(Gynecology Obstetrics Fertility & Senology), 48(12), 873-882
  • 2018, Arnal, M., The Issues of Medicalized Childbirth in France and Quebec, Travail, Genre et Sociétés (Work, Gender and Society), (1), 201-206
  • 2016, Arnal M.,Relief the Pain of Women During Childbirth. Deviance and Normalization of the Emotions. Genre, sexualité & société, advance online publication 20 December, doi: 10.4000/gss.3870

Other publications

  • 2014, Arnal M., Childbirth’Pain: Between Representation of Practices and Practices of Representation, Cahier de l’Institut de formation supérieure des cadres dirigeants de la FEHAP (Booklet of the Institute of Higher Education of FEHAP’s senior executives), n°4, November 2014
  • 2014, Arnal M., Analysis of Representations of Trisomy 21 by Pregnant Women, in the Context of Combined Prenatal Screening in France, La Revue Sage-femme (The Midwife Magazine), n°202, February 2014
  • 2013, Arnal M., Is analgesia of Parturient an Adequate and Consenting Feminine Norm?, Les dossiers de L'obstétrique (The Obstetric Records), n°432, December 2013  

Collective Responsibilities

  • 2019-2021, Reviewer for Anthropologie & Santé ; Social Theory & Health
  • 2016-2021, Research and Working Group ORGASM(Organ for Research on Pregnancy, Childbirth, Sexuality and Maternity),Co-created with Elsa Boulet, Aden Gaide, Amaya Garcia and Céline Puill, and Co-organized with a research team of about 20 members
  • 2015-2018, Expert for the French National Authority for Health (HAS)
    • Member of the working group regarding French National Recommendations of Professionals Practices in Birth Centers and Hospitals Care for Low-Risk Childbirth in France
  • 2016, International Workshop « Medicalized » Childbirth as a Public Problem: Risk Culture(s)Gender Politics, Techno-Reflexivities », with S. Topçu and I. Löwy, EHESS, Paris, 29-30 September
  • 2016, WorkshopEmotions in care and service relationships”, Co-organizer and member of the scientific board with P. Morey and D. Desprat, Nanterre University, France, 21 June
  • 2015-2017, Midwives’ ThesisMentor
    • "Accompanying Women Without Epidural, What are the Abilities of Student Midwifes?" Margaux Derouet, Foch School of Midwifery, Suresnes, Magna com Laude
    • "Which Women Want to Give Birth in Birthing Centers in France?”, Laura-Chralotte Bruneau, Baudelocque School of Midwifery, Paris, Summa com Laude
    • "What Decisions for Women about the Relief of the Pain During Childbirth Today in France? " Aude Traissard”, Foch School of Midwifery, Suresnes, Magna com Laude
  • 2014-2017
    • Doctoral Seminar at the Laboratory Cermes3, Oral communications and organization of the topics: Qualitative Methodology; Gender, Health and the Emotions in Social Science Research (with P. Morey)
    • Doctoral Seminar at the Laboratory IRIS, Oral communications and organization of the topics: Presentation and Discussion About PhD Student’s Research; Gender, Health and the Emotions in Social Science Research
  • 2015, Expert for the French National College of Midwifery
    Member of working group for The Organization of "Physiological Network" in France
  • 2014, Representative of the Federation of Hospital and Personal Aid Establishments (FEHAP) at the "Working Group on Initial Training, Ongoing Training, and Research in Maieutic", Ministry of Higher Education and Research, Paris, France, January to April 2014
  • 2013-2017, Jury Member: 10 Midwives’ Thesis, Baudelocque and Foch School of Midwifery, Paris and Suresnes, France
  • 2013, Research Assistant and National Organizer of EPIPPAIN 2, National Study of Pain and Newborns, French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM Unité 953), Armand Trousseau Hospital, Paris, France, May to July 2013
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