CFP AAA 2016: Articulating Human rights and Reproductive Governance

CFP: 115th AAA Annual Meeting, “Evidence, Accident, Discovery”, Minneapolis, MN, November 16-20, 2016.

Articulating Human Rights and Reproductive Governance: Critical Engagements in Transnational Perspective

Discussant: Elise Andaya, University at Albany, Suny. Organizer: Mounia El Kotni (University at Albany, SUNY). Chair: Elyse Singer (Washington University in St. Louis)

Engaging with human rights is never accidental. In recent years the human rights framework has risen to dominance, becoming the political and moral idiom par excellence for a diverse array of international social struggles. In the arena of reproduction, Non-Governmental Organizations, indigenous peoples, religious groups and the State, among other actors, are increasingly invoking a human rights framework to alternatively constrain and expand women’s reproductive choices. In this process of vernacularization, the “appropriation and local adoption of global ideas” (Levitt and Merry 2009:446), social actors at the local level often bring to light new meanings of human rights.

Contestation in human rights activism around reproduction is captured in the concept of “reproductive governance”, which calls attention to the ways in which entities including the state, religious institutions, NGOs, and social movements “use legislative controls, economic inducements, moral injunctions, direct coercion, and ethical incitements to produce, monitor, and control reproductive behaviors and population practices” (Morgan and Roberts 2012: 243). Such mechanisms of control can take overt form, such as population control campaigns, or be enacted through more subtle modes of moralization of women’s reproductive choices in healthcare institutions.

Building on emergent cross-cultural research in the field of reproduction, we ask: How do human rights and reproductive governance articulate with one another? In the ever more contested field of reproductive rights, how do they reinforce or disrupt each other? In this panel we seek to examine processes of “reproductive governance” in cross-cultural perspective with regards to issues including but not limited to abortion, birth, obstetric violence, sterilization abuse, adoption, assisted reproduction, population control, and the outbreak of Zika virus. We are interested in how diverse entities (such as feminist groups, NGOs, the Church, the state, midwives and anti-abortion activists) engage with and invoke the human rights perspective towards different and sometimes contradictory ends in their manifold struggles around reproduction.

We invite paper submissions that address the following questions:

o How do different entities invoke the human rights perspective around reproduction to struggle for diverse aims with regards to reproduction?

o What are the subjective effects of the human rights perspective on reproduction among those for whom activists advocate?

o How does the vernacularization of reproductive rights take shape in local settings?

o What might a human rights perspective on reproduction elide or obscure?

o How are reproductive rights and reproductive governance being engaged in light of the emergent outbreak of Zika virus?

Please submit your 250- word abstract (as a Word Doc or PDF) to Mounia El Kotni (SUNY Albany), melkotni@albany.edu or Elyse Singer (Washington University in St. Louis) esinger@wustl.edu, by Thursday, March 17st 2016.


Elyse Singer
Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Anthropology
Certificate in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Washington University, St. Louis

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