Making rights real: fertility politics and rights activism in India

Human rights-based approaches have become prevalent in development policy and discourse on population planning (fertility control) and maternal health in India from the mid-1990s when the UN international human rights system began to use and develop the language of reproductive rights. This period has also seen strong civil society activism to ‘translate’ rights (‘make rights real’) to bridge the gap between the rhetoric of policy and the reality of access to healthcare on the ground. But how do these development actors interpret and mobilise universal rights-based ideas in a context with a long history of indigenous rights discourse? And to what effects? Drawing on the diverse ethnographic accounts of sexual reproductive rights activists and health rights groups in Rajasthan I discuss how through the modalities of their rights work, instrumental and normative, civil society actors reinforce but also challenge neoliberal modes of health governance. More generally I suggest that anthropological work on rights helps elucidate the cultural dynamics of globalisation.

Departmental Seminar Hilary Term 2018

Fridays, 3.15pm, Lecture Theatre, Pitt Rivers Museum (off Robinson Close)

Convened by Marcus Banks and Leslie Fesenmyer.