BIROn - Birkbeck Institutional Research Online

    The governmentality of population debates in postcolonial India

    Banerjee, Sreenanti (2020) The governmentality of population debates in postcolonial India. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

    [img] Text
    FullVersion_2020_BanerjeeS_PhD_BBK.pdf.pdf - Full Version
    Restricted to Repository staff only

    Download (2MB)


    The thesis engages in a textual and historical analysis of certain key Indian debates associated with the population question from the early 1970s to contemporary times. It explains how changing demographic discourses can illuminate significant transitions in the technologies of governmentality mobilised to govern the Indian population. Four case studies, representing four key phases/moments of the population question are examined. First, I argue that from the early 1970s until the end of the period of the Emergency in 1977 (comprising of the first two anti-natalist moments), the Indian state, in order to successfully introduce the notion of the ‘small-family-norm’, deployed governmental techniques that frequently had to appeal to the legacy of anticolonial/non-liberal discourses. This detour that governmentality had to take for its completion had profound resemblances with Michel Foucault’s theme of ‘self-care’ that interrogated ‘self-knowledge’, mistrusted future-oriented action, and did not necessarily identify the object of policy intervention as an ‘interest-seeker’ whose ‘truth’ of victimhood can be mastered through the accumulation of observable knowledge. Second, I argue that this supposedly ‘non-modern’ deployment of governmentality - conducted in order to tutor the people into a very modern idea that large families are detrimental for their well-being, in other words, speaking of modernity itself in a language that was essentially heterogeneous - is discredited by the end of the 1970s. In this third phase, the emphasis on anti-natalism is gradually surpassed by a pronatalist discourse focused on ‘Saving the Girl Child’. I demonstrate how this new governmentality is primarily about identifying/producing the subject of legal intervention as a ‘Subject of Interest’. Third, I argue that the contemporary so called ‘illiberal’ anti-natalist moment of ‘saving’ the (Hindu) girl from the ‘demographically aggressive Muslim’ shares a similar ‘apparatus of concepts’ with the previous, apparently antithetical and more ‘progressive’ pro-natalist moment. Consequently, I suggest that the present fear of ‘Muslim demographic aggression’ is in actuality a fear of the numerical and therefore the political expansion of a ‘non-modern’ subject; a subject who engages in ‘disinterested reason’, and hence cannot be governed by the liberal-governmental pedagogy of interest.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2022 10:46
    Last Modified: 27 Apr 2022 14:00


    Activity Overview

    Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.

    Archive Staff Only (login required)

    Edit/View Item Edit/View Item