This book analyses the world of selective reproduction – the politics of who gets to legitimately reproduce the future – by a cross-cultural analysis of three modes of ‘controlling’ birth: contraception, reproductive violence, and repro-genetic technologies. The premise is that as fertility rates decline worldwide, the fervour to control fertility, and fertile bodies, does not dissipate; what evolves is the preferred mode of control. Although new technologies, for instance those that assist conception and/or allow genetic selection, may appear to be the antithesis of violent versions of population control, the book demonstrates that both are part of the same continuum. Much as all population control policies target and vilify (Black) women for their over-fertility, and coerce/induce them into subjecting their bodies to state and medical surveillance, assisted reproductive technologies and repro-genetic technologies have a similar and stratified burden of blame and responsibility based on gender, race, class, and caste. The book includes contributions from two postcolonial nations – South Africa and India – where the history of colonialism and the economics of neoliberal markets allow for some parallel moments of selecting who gets to legitimately reproduce the future. The book provides a critical interdisciplinary and cutting-edge dialogue around the interconnected issues that shape reproductive politics in an ostensibly ‘post-population control’ era. The contributions range from gender studies, sociology, medical anthropology, politics, science and technology studies, to theology, public health, epidemiology and women’s health, with the aim of facilitating an interdisciplinary dialogue around the interconnected modes of controlling birth and practices of neo-eugenics.
In his seminal work of 2018, Fatal Misconception, Mathew Connelly surmises that the global campaign for population control is a neo-colonial attempt to control the world. What are these neo-colonial projects that attempt to control the world? What shape do these projects take in an era where population control has become a taboo phrase in policy making? This chapter draws on the concept of birth projects to demonstrate that as fertility rates decline worldwide, the fervour to control birthing bodies, especially of poor and Black women in the global south, does not dissipate. The twentieth-century top-down population control projects, embedded in state propaganda and policies, were easily identifiable because of their starkness and brutality. What we have today are birth projects that are diffuse and couched in the frame of individual choice, which absolve the state of its responsibility. These neo-eugenic birth projects are based on a subtle form of eugenics that depoliticises issues and justifies systemic inequalities by couching them in the frame of choice. The chapter compares the history and presence of population control policies in South Africa and India to two other modes of delimiting the fertility of a certain demography – obstetric violence and repro-genetic technologies – to argue that forced contraceptive, limiting (legal) access to contraceptive, exposing women to violence during pregnancy and birthing, and the inherent stratifications of new repro-genetic technologies, although seemingly contrasting, belong to the same neo-eugenic continuum.
The Introduction provides the main premise that connects the various chapters – that as fertility rates decline worldwide, the fervour to control fertility, and fertile bodies, does not dissipate; what evolves is the preferred mode of control. The preface introduces connections between the debates around eugenics, Malthusianism and selective reproduction. It provides an overview of the book by outlining the various chapter contributions as well as highlighting the interdisciplinarity of the volume. The final section connects these debates to the Covid-19 pandemic and the crisis of reproductive health and justice.