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Embodying Contraception: Women's Representations of the Body and Reproductive Technologies in India

Lucia Gentile (University of Milano-Bicocca and INALCO, Italy)

Reproductive Governance and Bodily Materiality

ISBN: 978-1-80071-439-7, eISBN: 978-1-80071-438-0

Publication date: 7 April 2022


This chapter explores the interaction between different kinds of knowledge and representations in the making of the ‘fleshed’ female reproductive body in an Indian city. In particular, it analyzes how women perceive contraception and how the reproductive governance helped to produce the female sterilization as the most widely used contraceptive method in India. The study is based on the case of the city of Bhuj, in the state of Gujarat (India), where three anthropological fieldworks (15 months) were conducted. Modern contraceptive methods are based on a biomedical representation of the body, drawn from Western categories of knowledge and experience, whereas women live the ‘fleshed’ reproductive body through local categories of substance and fluids. How is this knowledge mobilized and affected in relation to reproductive technologies and the government of reproduction? This question is addressed through the analysis of women's embodied experiences of contraception. The narratives collected show a resistance to biomedicine, considered to be a model that alters the female body and its reproductive capacity. Nevertheless, even when sterilization was considered to be a deliberate act of tampering with the functioning of their bodies, women displayed a pragmatic agency in choosing this method. The experiences of respondents reflected complex negotiations between bodily suffering, socio-economic structures and the microphysics of power surrounding them, rather than a unilateral submission to medical authority and reproductive governance.



Gentile, L. (2022), "Embodying Contraception: Women's Representations of the Body and Reproductive Technologies in India", Guerzoni, C.S. and Mattalucci, C. (Ed.) Reproductive Governance and Bodily Materiality (Emerald Studies in Reproduction, Culture and Society), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 93-110.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022 Lucia Gentile. Published under exclusive licence by Emerald Publishing Limited