My research interests lie in the global politics of reproduction. Going beyond the conventional scholarly focus on reproductive risk and outcomes, I investigate how reproduction anchors political contestations over governance in response to global flows of professionals and people.
My current book manuscript, tentatively titled Informed Intimacies: Mass Communication and the Science of Family Planning in Cold War India, argues that global political and scientific dynamics significantly shaped reproductive governance in postcolonial India. Drawing on a wealth of primary archival documents from 1951-1980, I illustrate how American communications experts reframed population control in India as less a biomedical quest for an unassailable contraceptive than a psychological battle for “hearts and minds” — a battle that they argued could be won through the use of mass communications lauding the presumed virtues of contraception and nuclear families. According to American communications experts, crafting “modern” Indian families that made “rational” reproductive decisions and believed in the primacy of nuclear family relations would secure the psychosocial conditions for democratic capitalism, thereby casting American social science expertise as a bulwark against communist expansion in the country and the postcolonial world more broadly. The Indian state, in response, instituted wide-ranging information infrastructures beginning in the 1960s to persuade citizens to believe in the virtues of planned conception.
In addition, I analyze how social scientists’ gendered associations of rational decision-making with masculinity transformed a largely medicalized program focused on the bodies of women into a simultaneously ideological endeavor to shape the reproductive beliefs and decisions of men. The manuscript thus demonstrates how the institutionalization of international family planning was not only a response to economic underdevelopment, but also driven by anxieties over the viability of capitalist democracy in a new world order. Furthermore, it shows how the Cold War was crucially waged through expert-driven interventions into quotidian gender relations and familial institutions in the non-aligned world. Finally, the study is one of the first to analyze the origins of the Indian family planning program’s erstwhile and unconventional focus on men.
My next major project investigates the politics of global and national sex ratios as a case study of knowledge controversies and a window into the evolving entanglements of gender, science, and global security and immigration discourse.
In previous work, I have analyzed the role of feminist and queer activism in legal debates over the right to privacy in India, and representations of emotional labor in U.S. popular culture.