“A Résumé for the Baby”: Biosocial Precarity and Care of Substance-Using, Pregnant Women in San Francisco

Ashish Premkumar*, Jennifer Kerns, Megan J. Huchko

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In the United States, the historical condemnation and punitive legal consequences of substance use during pregnancy—ranging from incarceration to termination of parental custody of a newborn—render pregnant women in state of biosocial precarity. Yet pregnant women who use illicit substances who desire to parent must generate a legible narrative for bureaucratic groups, such as Child Protective Services, through engagement with biomedical care in order to demonstrate parental capacity. Based on longitudinal interviews with pregnant women who were actively using illicit substances and attempting to parent after delivery, we posit that the relationship between biosocial precarity and biomedical care is a procedural interaction that is rooted in the potential to parent, described as the ability to have a “take-home baby.” In order to achieve this goal, the need for engagement in biomedical care and the creation of a biomedical narrative, described as a “résumé for the baby” is required. The relationship between care and biosocial precarity is a unique, underdeveloped concept within medical anthropology and has important consequences not only for the ethical turn within anthropology, but also how applied researchers consider engagement with this highly marginalized, vulnerable population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-55
Number of pages21
JournalCulture, Medicine and Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • Care
  • Moral anthropology
  • Obstetrics
  • Precarity
  • Substance use in pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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