Northwestern University

Fri 12:00 PM

Selective Attention to Contraception in Sub-Saharan Africa’s Analyses of Declining Infant and Child Mortality Rates

When: Friday, April 8, 2016
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM  

Where: 1902 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Jeff Cernucan   847.467.2770

Group: Buffett Institute for Global Studies

Category: Global & Civic Engagement


In the last 50 years, the urgency of international family planning agendas has seemed particularly intense in sub-Saharan Africa, where rates of both population growth and infant/child mortality have been highest, and Western contraceptives have been pushed vigorously as remedies for both. Particularly in the wake of the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development, Africa has seen clear evidence of what The Economist (2012) called, “some of the biggest falls in child mortality ever seen, anywhere.”

That The Economist should have been so effusive about these achievements is not surprising. What is mysterious is how demographic analyses themselves have attempted to explain these declines: as the results of improvements in hygiene, poverty, education, literacy, disease control, access to hospitals and potable water, gender biases, and so on. If we are to take at face value the promotional claims of family planning organizations, the use of Western contraception to space births must be one of the greatest boons to child health in history. Why, despite the enormous continued emphases on child health and survival in family planning programs, has women’s actual use of contraceptives drawn only the thinnest interest from the fields that have seemed most anxious to promote them?

From the Department of Anthropology, Caroline Bledsoe's projects in West Africa have centered on cultural visions of marriage, fertility and contraception, and child fosterage, several of which have been followed by U.S. and European counterpart studies. Her work, "Back to Africa: Second Chances for the Children of West African immigrants," has been published in the Journal of Marriage and Family and the International Handbook on Gender, Migration and Transnationalism: Global and Development Perspectives.


This is part of the Buffett Institute Faculty & Fellows Colloquium. Find it on Facebook.

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