Colonizing the womb : women, midwifery, and the state in colonial Ghana



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This dissertation explores the British colonial government’s attempt to reconstruct women’s reproductive behaviors in colonial Ghana through the sites of maternal and infant welfare services and western midwifery education. In the early 1920s, the fear that the high maternal and infant mortality rates in the Gold Coast would have repercussive effects on economic productivity caused the colonial government to increasingly subject women’s reproduction to medical scrutiny and institutional care. I argue that female reproduction was selected as a site of intervention because the British colonial government conceived of it as a path of least resistance to social reconstruction, economic security, and political dominance. The five chapters have been designed to analyze colonial reproductive intervention as a socio-economic and political exigency of colonial rule. This dissertation speaks to the fact that cross-culturally, the female body has been politicized through narratives of power, culture, tradition, modernity, race, disempowerment, and empowerment.