ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Family, State, and Ideal Populations

Unearthing Histories of Population Planning

Reproductive Politics and the Making of Modern India by Mytheli Sreenivas, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2021; pp 274, `2,250.

Reproductive Politics and the Making of Modern India examines the significance of family planning in the economic modernisation in India. National worries about overpopulation influenced statist visions of sovereignty and individual freedom. Family planning embodied grand visions of modernity through reproductive choices, while also showcasing worries about the quality of the population. The book illustrates the proximity of developmental economics to eugenics. Mytheli Sreenivas embeds reproductive politics in India in its planned economy of the 1920s till the 1970s. She contributes to the rich scholarship on histories of birth control in late colonial India. Additionally, this literature has been put in a conversation with global histories of population.

The book can be analysed in three layers: the first layer studies change in marriage practices and birth control advocacy; the second layer examines the links between population planning and economic development; and the third layer links family planning to famines and food security. With clear and concise language, the book is paving the way for historians to study links between population planning and modern statecraft. The period of the book is from the late colonial to the postcolonial period leading up to the 1970s. It ends with a note on how the 1980s saw shifts in
the statist vocabulary around women’s health. The book slowly lays out how reproductive politics accrued coercive techniques over the decades. Constructed as a solution to poverty, targeted birth control advocacy allegedly brought economic prosperity.

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Updated On : 18th Sep, 2021
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