Wellcome Unit Seminars, 19/5/14

Trinity Term 2014 Seminar Series

At: The Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine
Seminar Room, 47 Banbury Road, Oxford

Coffee is available from 2.00pm – Seminars begin at 2.15pm prompt

‘Reproduction, Gender, and Sexuality in the History of Medicine’
Conveners: Marisa Benoit and Julianne Weis

Week 4 – 19 May

Rebecca Williams, University of Warwick

‘Population control and the State in 1950s India: producing consent through “unmet needs”‘

In 1952, the Government of India became the first national government to launch an official programme of population limitation as part of its first Five Year Plan. Yet, during the early 1950s, the government of the ‘world’s largest democracy’ lacked a mandate for its project of population control. My talk explores the way in which the Government of India sought to reconcile population control with its project of ‘democratic planning’ through the construction of ‘unmet needs.’ Through social scientific surveys which purportedly revealed popular demand for family planning services, the Government of India produced consent for the fundamentally undemocratic project of population control.

Rebecca Williams is an Early Career Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study, University of Warwick. Her research interests are in the history of medicine, development studies, and the history of modern South Asia.

Her doctoral thesis, ‘Revisiting the Khanna Study: Population and Development in India, 1953-60’, addressed the establishment of population control programmes in postcolonial India. Specifically, the thesis examined how and why India became a ‘laboratory’ for population control intervention in the post-war period, for transnational organisations and the Government of India alike, drawing upon oral history interviews and archives across India and the US.

Her next research project, entitled ‘Population Control and the Emergency in India: The Shah Commission Regained’, examines how and why population control served as a crucial point of state intervention during the ‘Emergency’ of 1975-77, when millions were sterilised.rebecca_williams


‘Storming the Citadels of Poverty: Family Planning under the Emergency in India, 1975-1977’, Journal of Asian Studies Vol. 73, No. 2 (May 2014)

‘“Surveillance for Equity”? Poverty, Inequality and the Anti-Politics of International Health,’ forthcoming in Sarah Hodges and Mohan Rao (eds.), Science, Technology and Medicine in India, 1930-2000: The Problem of Poverty

Please note there is no parking at the Unit