Deconstructing Tradition, Demystifying Women: Re-evaluating the gendered hegemonies of South Asian women through an analysis of sex selection and transnational reproductive technologies

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Moose, Aenon, Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Virginia
Hueckstedt, Robert, Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Virginia
Patel, Geeta, Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Virginia

The issue of sex selection in India has been highlighted as a socio-cultural concern since colonial incursion in the subcontinent. Popular discourses related to practices which embody “daughter aversion,” such as sex-selective abortion of female fetuses and the neglect or maltreatment of girl children, have painted the contemporary issue as an eccentric cultural proclivity concomitant with the misuse of modern reproductive technologies. However, implicating patriarchy, son preference, and the low status of women in Indian society only obscures the dynamic confluence of factors, compromises, and complex hierarchies that are at work in the social realities women face. Instead of sensationalizing instances of selective female abortion or neglect we must closely analyze the dynamic interplay of historical change, state policy, economics, transnational circuits of technology, and the conceptualization of the family. In order to contextualize sex selection in the South Asian setting, we must necessarily recognize women’s own experiences, fears, and compromises as imbedded within locally diverse social, political, and economic processes. Furthermore, we must also call into question hegemonic, marketized notions of choice and individuality which flatten the complexity of women’s experiences of economic, educational, and reproductive dependence and/or autonomy. Productive deconstruction of popular imaginings of gender discrimination in South Asia requires critical synthesis of the historical and theoretical with the personal. This paper explores beyond the normative discourse on sex selection in South Asia as a uniquely discriminatory cultural product, and examines reproductive technologies as biopolitical formations which inhere in transnational economic circuits. By re-contextualizing the historical, geopolitical, economic, and personal facets of sex selection in South Asia we are better suited to thoroughly grasp the intricacies of women’s conditional engagement with reproductive technologies, and critically examine the wide ranging implications of the surrounding discourses.

MA (Master of Arts)
sex selection, reproductive technology, Indian women
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