12 May 2017

Charting the History of Birth Control in the Caribbean

On 11 May, the Graduate Institute’s Gender Centre hosted an event with Nicole Bourbonnais, Assistant Professor of International History, to discuss her new book, Birth Control in the Decolonizing Caribbean. Reproductive Politics and Practice on Four Islands, 1930–1970.

“The book looks at the rise of birth-control activism in Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, and Bermuda”, said Prof. Bourbonnais. “It starts with the rise of debates over birth control in the 1930s during a period of labour activism and the beginning of nationalist movements and decolonisation. It charts the creation of early clinics and family planning associations in the following decades, and looks at the rise of state funding for birth control and international aid in the 60s and 70s.

“I set out to tackle the process of decolonisation in the Caribbean and some of the wider debates that were sparked by that movement, going beyond such classic issues as constitutional amendments and suffrage. I wanted to explore the challenges faced by working class women as they tried to negotiate control over their reproductive lives. The book will hopefully be helpful not just for understanding reproductive politics today in the Caribbean, but also in other areas that saw a similar rise of activism in this period.”

Nicole next book project will expand outward from the Caribbean to explore the transnational networks that linked together birth control campaigns, family planning activists, and reproductive rights movements across the globe since the 1920s.

Interested to know more? Nicole Bourbonnais introduces her book in the video below, or you can read her recent article, Reproductive Rights and Race Struggle in the Decolonizing Caribbean.