Birth Control and Population in Interwar China and India
Society for Advancing the History of South Asia 4
This panel attends to both national dynamics and the global debates within which they were embedded. Mytheli Sreenivas highlights understudied texts that challenged (inter)national assumptions about Indian (over)population and its supposed links to underdevelopment, bringing to the fore interwar discourses later subsumed in the postcolonial state. Mirela David traces the development of eugenics and population management from the Chinese tours of Margaret Sanger and Bertrand Russell in the 1920s to the 1945 promulgation of the first national population policy. Rahul Nair analyzes a fraught relationship between birth control advocates and the medical community in interwar India to emphasize the roles of legislation and public activism in ‘disciplining’ birth control within medical knowledge. Joshua Hubbard addresses Chinese intellectuals’ efforts to reconcile birth control advocacy with Nationalist ideology, and thereby intervene in both national public health and international assessments of China in the 1930s. Together, these papers bring national specificity to our understanding of the global, interwar discourse of population management, providing an analysis that is at once comparative and transnational.
In the process the panel hopes to engage directly with the “historical scale” theme of the AHA 2017 meeting in linking the regional, national, transnational and global dimensions of the population problem. Additionally this panel follows the AHA’s commitment to career stage diversity by bringing together panelists in different stages of their professional career including a graduate student, two junior faculty, and two senior faculty with associate and full professor ranks.