Shaping Future Citizens: State Interventions in Maternal and Child Health, Culture, and Society across Twentieth-Century Latin America and the Caribbean

Conference on Latin American History 33
Saturday, January 8, 2011: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM
Great Republic Room (The Westin Copley Place)
Cari Sloan Williams, Emory University
Ann S. Blum, University of Massachusetts at Boston

Session Abstract

This panel tackles the question of states' roles in molding future citizenry by comparing examples of diverse child- and maternal-focused initiatives in Bolivia, Brazil, Jamaica, and Mexico in the twentieth century.  The papers offer both divergent and convergent insights into specific cases of state intervention in public health, population, cultural production, and social life.  These works evoke a dialogue about how children's roles as citizens, national symbols, and demographic entities have been conceptualized by Latin American states in the twentieth century.  Specifically, the papers on Bolivia and Jamaica both focus on campaigns aimed at reproduction control that reflect the respective governments' preoccupations with crafting images of national development, social/class cohesion, and political ideology.  Likewise, papers on Brazil and Mexico examine how government departments influenced cultural production, specifically print media and public exhibitions, as a way to sculpt children's behaviors and images according to officials' ideals of citizenship and national identity.  The papers illustrate a common theme of centralized health and cultural policymaking facing inherent barriers and/or resistance to desired behavioral and social change as a result of underlying socioeconomic inequalities, ethnic/racial diversity, regionalism, and political conflict.  The presentations also engage in questions of methodology and the use of primary documentation to unearth the complex, and often obscured, relationships between children, women, policymaking, and nationalist cultural production.