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How did the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and the Population Council work with independent India to undertake unprecedented interventions in the agricultural and nutritional sciences in the context of decolonization? Contrasting with recent historical scholarship on the changes that swept the world food economy in the mid-twentieth century, this research centers on the connections between late colonial and post-independence understandings of famine, population growth, and development in South Asia. Contributing to a doctoral dissertation, this work also sheds light upon the link between the concerns of colonial-era eugenics and the debate between population regulation advocates and agricultural and nutritional scientists that would unfold over how to best address independent India's development priorities. Pursuing a broader framing of the Green Revolution of the 1960s, this project tracks the influence of the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and the Population Council in inaugurating programs of rural development, nutritional research, and resource management, uncovering the colonial area roots of their interventions in the 1950s and 1960s. Efforts led by Indian nationalists, British colonial officials, and American philanthropists and scientists in the context of colonial development and a global population "crisis" generated institutions and ideas vital to the later Green Revolution. They receive close readings in my work to understand the underlying motives of philanthropic investment and the strategic planning involved in launching new and unprecedented programs. The motivations and inaugural planning behind these early activities reveal how far decolonization shaped the demographic and agricultural theories central to development discourse across independent South Asia.
Co-operatives and Contraceptives: Family Planning and Theories of Rural Development in Comilla, East PakistanMarch 15, 2021
Why did Pakistan (including both present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh) emerge as a crucial site for global population control programs? Operating at multiple scales of analysis, my project explores the motivations for advocating family planning programs by different groups in Pakistan from the early 1950s to 1971 - these included social scientists, Islamic modernists, women social workers, and politicians and bureaucrats. It also examines the interactions between these local groups and global actors on questions of population control. I look at the implementation of both research and action-oriented family planning projects, and explore their attempts to organize and reconfigure social and economic relations. The friction arising from the planning and implementation of these projects provides fruitful ground for examining debates over foreign aid, modernization, the role of Islam, and state-formation in a decolonizing society. Family planning schemes operated at different scales; some were pilot projects at the village level, while others were provincial or national in scope. However, they were all transnational enterprises, and sites of interaction between local and global ideas, actors, and institutions. This research report focuses on the Pakistan Academy for Rural Development at Comilla as a site for examining the relationship between family planning and rural development.
In May 1963, Dr. Sheldon Segal convened a meeting of reproductive biologists at the Population Council's offices in New York City. He had called them there to consider "the possibility of concentrating efforts to increase fertility control research by means of establishing a large primate center in India." The proposal was an outgrowth of Segal's consultancy work for the Ford Foundation in New Delhi, and he was keen to pursue it. Segal regarded India – "a country with an abundant monkey supply" – as an ideal place to establish a cost-effective primate center for contraceptive research.
"God Bless the Pill: Contraception and Sexuality in Tri-Faith America" charts the illuminating and unexpectedly complex history of the contemporary debate over abortion, contraception, and religious freedom. For the contemporary period, we think of battles over contraception as occurring between conservative Christians (Protestant and Catholic) and secular Americans. However, these debates have a much more diverse religious history in which liberal Protestants and Jews played a prominent role. For instance, in 1958, the chairman of the New York City municipal hospital system prevented a Jewish doctor from providing a diabetic Protestant woman with the contraception she needed to prevent a life-threatening pregnancy. In response, the New York metropolitan area's Jewish and Protestant clergy launched a campaign that changed hospital policy. This two-month-long public relations battle used both arguments about religious freedom and theological and halakhic defenses of contraception. Theirs were not the first religious voices to speak publicly for contraceptive access, but they set the tone for a public alliance between Jews and Protestants against more conservative Catholic teaching on the pill and shifted much of the debate from the morality of contraception to contraceptive decisions as an arena for religious freedom.
This project explores the origins and expansion of family planning programs in Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria from the 1960s into the 1980s. It asks how and why these North African countries were among the first in Africa and the Middle East to enter into voluntary partnerships with international organizations, and examines the outcomes newly sovereign leaders hoped to achieve. It shows how local leaders forged strategic alliances, albeit with varying levels of commitment, with the Population Council and the Ford Foundation, and later with USAID, the World Bank, and the WHO. Their efforts aimed to secure vital international aid, including financial, material and intellectual resources, that would support their goals to develop a more robust health care infrastructure after the end of empire. This project also demonstrates the contradictions of sovereignty and agency in the post-independence era, for on the one hand, slowed population growth would theoretically secure the North African countries' economic independence, but, on the other hand, independent leaders had to rely on transnational foreign experts for funding and material resources to achieve that goal. This study, therefore, contributes to our understanding of the complex interplay and necessary flexibility and adaptability between newly sovereign states in the Global South and international organizations after decolonization.
From Colonial Ethno-Politics to International Demographic Transition Theory? Family Planning Projects in Fiji, 1960-1974May 23, 2019
The Rockefeller Archive Centre (RAC) is a very rich source of information on the history of family planning and population control in Fiji in the 1960s and early 1970s. The RAC holds files relating to a multitude of organisations great and small that looked to Rockefeller-funded organisations such as the Population Council for advice and/or financial support. Therefore, it is a great resource for analysing the work of voluntary associations, such as the Fiji Family Planning Association (FFPA), which do not always have their own centralised archive, and provide information on discussions beyond the official publications of intergovernmental development organisations such as the South Pacific Commission (SPC). Through these files, it was possible to trace the evolution of the debate around the promotion of family planning in Fiji. In the 1950s, colonial officials in Fiji were preoccupied with demographic disparities between the two largest ethnic groups in Fiji – Fijians and Indo-Fijians. The Population Council files consulted demonstrate that in the 1960s and early 1970s the rationale for introducing family planning in Fiji changed to addressing total population in line with international ideas of demographic transition theory and the need for global population control, although this did not lead to a total departure from colonial thinking. Beyond the files on family planning, the RAC also holds information on other maternal and child health programmes that further demonstrate the uneasy interface between colonial and international health after the Second World War.
In 1990, feminists and doctors hailed the long-term birth control device, Norplant, as the greatest advancement in birth control technology since the 1960s. By 2002, in response to an avalanche of feminist criticism and over 200 class action lawsuits, Norplant's distributor removed the contraceptive device from the U.S. market. My research, the first historical study of the drug, links the politics of Norplant to the expansion of feminism, the politicization of class action lawsuits, and the rise of neoliberalism in the 1990s.
Early in September 2015, I was discussing my research with a Ph.D. candidate that I had met for the first time at the University of Texas, Austin. I told him that I had conducted preliminary research at the British National Archives and Cadbury Research Library in Birmingham, England during the previous summer. These archives had colonial and missionary documents, respectively, and I expressed a desire to explore documents on healthcare in Nigeria by groups other than the government or the church. My colleague told me about the Rockefeller Archive Center's (RAC) collection and encouraged me to contact an archivist about documents on Nigeria. Of course, I was skeptical. "What can an archive in New York have on early Nigerian history?", I mused. Seeing my reluctance, he reiterated that there was no limit to the collection's reach and gave me a link to the website. I contacted an archivist who encouraged me to search the Center's database. I was surprised and delighted to find tons of files on medicine and reproductive health in Nigeria.
In December 1968, Frank Wilder presented a paper in a Carolina-USAID Workshop on 'Mass Communications in Family Planning.' This was, perhaps, the first time he presented the inverted "Red Triangle" to the developing world. As a consultant to the Ford Foundation's India Office focused on Mass Communications for Family Planning, he had been working on the symbol for the past three years. In his paper, he added a note that the symbol was now ready for circulation across the 'developing countries' or what we know as the Global South.
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