Science that Colonizes: A Critique of Fertility Studies in Africa (Health Society And Policy)

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9781566390422: Science that Colonizes: A Critique of Fertility Studies in Africa (Health Society And Policy)

In this book, Agnes Riedmann introduces and explores "World System Demography," an original concept that refers to demography as a global, bureaucratically administered science that is controlled by the elite within First World nations. For her case, Riedmann analyzes data collected in Nigeria, the country with a fertility rate above the African average. Funded by a U.S. organization, three large-scale research projects were carried out among the Yoruba in the early 1970s. Riedmann maintains that World System Demography, exemplified by such studies, is an agent of First World-directed cultural imperialism. She argues that the authority of First World scientists to penetrate the Third World for research has its roots in the idea of a "right to invade," which originated as far back as the fifteenth century with colonizing Europeans.
The author demonstrates that World System Demography is an extension of the Western - primarily American - family planning/birth control movement. In addition, she critically analyzes how, largely as a result of the wealth and aggressiveness of this movement, even the assumedly value-neutral practice of collecting data ultimately promotes contraception. She provides examples of how research questions can impose cultural values and suggest behaviors not indigenous to the native culture. Using the reports of interviewers, Riedmann illustrates how Western assumptions conflict with those of the research population; she also explores the ways in which this population resists participation in the project.
Shedding new light on the salient question of persistent high fertility rates in Africa, Science That Colonizes ends with a discussion of policy considerations.

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About the Author:

Agnes Riedmann has taught sociology at University of Nebraska and Creighton University.

Review:

"This is an excellent book. It is timely for the field of demography, where the current mood indicates a willingness to reevaluate accepted empirical practices and to rethink standard theoretical positions. This book should contribute importantly to that reevaluation and rethinking, especially so as it is written in a clear and accessible style." --Susan Watkins, Center for Advanced Studies in Behavioral Sciences

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Riedmann, Agnes
Published by Temple University Press (1993)
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Agnes Riedmann
Published by Temple University Press (1993)
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