C. Sathyamala
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Injectable contraceptives
Technologies of power and language of rights
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Regulation of populations has been one of the central concerns of nation states since the latter half of the eighteenth century, when disciplinary power over individual bodies shifted to power over populations, in what Foucault termed biopower. Depending on the biopolitical objectives of indiviudal nation states, this resulted in the promotion of pro- and anti-natalist measures as part of a capitalist, racist, and imperialist agenda. Over time, the biopolitical project of eliminating bodies deemed superfluous to the economy moved from ‘making die’ to ‘letting die’. However, this chapter argues that the active promotion of anti-natal technologies, such as long-acting injectable contraceptives, which are inherently hazardous and life-threatening, indicates the reverse, from ‘letting die’ to ‘making die’. Evidence comes from the three-decade long struggle in India against the introduction of injectable contraceptives into its national family planning programme. The chapter analyses the context within which the struggle gained currency and in which it lost out. It examines the truth claims of the medical establishment, the NGO-isation and conflation of diverse ideologies under the rubric of ‘women’s’ groups as strategies deployed to overcome resistance to these technologies of power. In the context of liberal democracy, the removal of certain populations’ rights and their elimination makes the state of exception the new normal. The chapter concludes that, notwithstanding the rhetoric of reproductive choice and women’s empowerment, the discourse demonstrates the class, gender, and caste dimensions (with its underpinning of racism) of the biopolitical intention of ‘making die’, ably aided by transnational capital.

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