The Rockefellers, Margaret Sanger and the Eugenic Dimension of Birth Control in Colonial India and Republican China


Tiasangla Longkumer (PhD, Jawaharlal Nehru University; ICS-HYI Fellow)

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Abstract: Margaret Sanger’s Euro-American eugenic discourse in birth control have exerted a prominent role in propagandizing the issue of birth control in public debates and discussions in India and China. Positioned at the nexus of a complex web of national and international initiatives, this essay traces the history of Margaret Sanger’s birth control movement in Colonial India and Republican China in the 1920s and 1930s. Modeled within the ideological framework of Neo-Malthusianism that located birth control in the concerns of ‘overpopulation, disease and poverty,’ this essay attempts to examine the introduction of Sanger’s eugenic concerns and its influence on both the Indian and Chinese intellectuals of the time and how these ideas came to be seen as a modern, rational, progressive science, whose utopic potentials could save both the countries from its growing population with limited resources. Sanger was also able to garner support for her birth control project from one of the most wealthy and prominent family, the Rockefeller’s since the early years of her birth control advocacy. Committed to the idea of birth control and enhanced control over family size and composition, Rockefeller displayed sustained commitments to Sanger’s birth control project. Rockefeller involvement in the population project since the birth of the eugenic movement was seen as a powerful and influential factor in the advancement of the population control agenda. Support from powerful philanthropist like the Rockefeller’s played a prominent role in furthering Sanger’s birth control agenda on a global scale.

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