Contraception across Cultures: Technologies, Choices, Constraints

By Andrew Russell; Elisa J. Sobo et al. | Go to book overview

1
Introdiction: Contraception Across
Andrew Russell and Mary S. Thompson

Conceptions and Contraceptions

The development of new contraceptive technologies over the last fifty years has profound implications for social relationships between men and women. Conversely, gender and other power relationships at local and global levels have implications for the way the new contraceptive technologies are developed, disseminated and used. The aim of this volume is to investigate the impact of contraception on society, and of society on contraception, from a cross-cultural, anthropological perspective using case studies and overviews from around the world (see Figure 1.1).

Compared to recent interest in the new reproductive technologies within anthropology (e.g. Strathern 1992; Edwards et al. 1993), attention paid to contraception has been relatively scant. 1 While no-one can deny the awesome social and cultural implications of many of the reproductive technologies that anthropologists have addressed, such as in vitro fertilization, the fact remains that few people worldwide are ever likely to have the chance to use these innovations. Contraception, on the other hand, impinges on the lives of the majority of heterosexual couples in their childbearing years, irrespective of income or social status.

In light of this, Andrew Russell and Elisa Sobo convened an international conference, ‘Changing Contraceptives: Choices, Technologies and Constraints’, in September 1996. 2 The conference examined contraception cross-culturally, and the methodological approaches anthropologists and others use to shed light on contraception-related patterns of thought and action. The majority of chapters in this volume were first presented as papers at the conference.

This chapter outlines the themes and theories that underlie the study of, drawing together the work of the other

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