Reproductive Politics in Southern Africa and India workshop



Date: May 25-26, 2017


Venue: HUMA Seminar room, Neville Alexander Building, University Avenue, Upper Campus  (May 25 8.30 - 4 pm, May 26th 8.30 - 12pm)

Public Talk at the Centre for African Studies (CAS) Gallery, Harry Oppenheimer Building, Upper Campus (May 26, from 3 pm).


The term biopolitics – political technologies organised around the body – theorised efficiently by Michel Foucault (1976), arguably has its intellectual roots in the work of the classic ‘population pessimist’ Thomas Malthus’ and his 18th century “Essay on the Principle of Population”. While many scholars have debunked the Malthusian myth, it continues to shape contemporary debates and policies around “population control” and anti-natalism, especially in Africa and South Asia. Women in the global south are constantly framed as recklessly reproductive and to be blamed for their own poverty.

Concurrently, people in the global south are subjected to additional types of reproductive injustices by health systems. These have recently been labelled  reproductive or "obstetric violence," most notably by Latin American scholars who have adopted this term making these practices punishable by law. Obstetric violence has been defined as a host of dehumanizing physical and psychological as well as health access related practices carried out globally by local health systems.

Despite this selective anti natalism and violence, these regions in the global south are also rapidly emerging as hubs of a new kind of bio-politics – new markets and technologies for assisted reproduction and reproductive tissues (for instance, ova, sperms & surrogacy). The same women, who are coerced or encouraged to not reproduce, and are violently abused based on their race, class, gender and vulnerable positions, are suddenly being valued for gestating babies or providing the reproductive resources for people from more privileged race, class and nations to reproduce. Are these technologies increasing "choice" or are they a new form of neo-eugenics - whereby the neoliberal notion of consumer choice can be used to justify systemic inequalities?

In this cross-disciplinary two-day workshop we wish to develop a better understanding of these paradoxes of reproduction and its impact on women in the global south, especially in the context of South Africa and India.

Presenters and Discussants:

  • Catherine Burns, Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender, University of Pretoria
  • Catriona MacLeod, SARChI Chair of the Critical Studies in Sexualities and Reproduction programme, Rhodes University
  • C.Sathyamala, Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University of Rotterdam
  • Catriona A. Towriss, Centre for Actuarial Research, and Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Epidemiology, University of Cape Town
  • Deepa Venkatachalam, Founder, Sama Resource Group for Women and Health, Delhi, India
  • Jessica Rucell, Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds
  • Kathleen Lorne McDougall, Anthropology, University of Cape Town
  • Kezia Batisai, Sociology, University of Johannesburg
  • Lakshmi Lingham, Centre for Women Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences
  • Nolwazi Mkhwanazi, Wits Institute of Social & Economic Research
  • Rachelle Chadwick, Gender Studies, University of Cape Town
  • Tessa Moll, Social Anthropology, University of Cape Town
  • Verena Namberger, Gender Studies, Humboldt University of Berlin
  • Amrita Pande, Sociology, University of Cape Town

See the attached for details on panels and speakers. 

The workshop is hosted by the Department of Sociology, University of Cape Town and funded in part by the National Research Foundation and the National Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences. 

Organisers: Amrita Pande, Sociology, University of Cape Town (Senior Lecturer, Sociology, University of Cape Town)
Jessica Rucell (PhD Candidate and Research Fellow, Sociology, University of Cape Town)