Kinder statt Inder

Zukunftskolleg Lecture with Shalini Randeria on May 4, 2017 titled "Kinder statt Inder – The Politics of Demographic Panics in the Global North and South"

In her talk, Shalini Randeria focussed on the ways in which demographic panics and thus population control are entangled with nationalist agendas, with ideas about optimum size but also quality of the citizenry and how these are tied to anxieties fuelled by migration. She also shed light on the alarming developments concerning women's rights under pro-natalist as well as anti-natalist reproductive governance today.

Issues of migration have been inextricably intertwined with pro-natalist population policies with a view to preserve the purity of the nation. State control of reproduction is thus entangled with nationalist agendas, either ethno-nationalist or cultural nationalist. The term “Kinder statt Inder”, coined in the year 2000, aptly shows how the issue of migration and reproduction are linked together: It was an exhortation to Germans to increase their fertility in an attempt to keep out the undesired foreigners. However, this is hardly a predominantly German preoccupation as Shalini Randeria reminds us with Danish, Swedish, Hungarian or Bulgarian examples. The nationalists' "Fear of the small number" (Arjun Appadurai), refers to the presence of minorities, that however small in number are perceived as a sign of incompleteness of the desired whole. However, we can go beyond this analysis to highlight another aspect of majoritarianism, namely the fear of ethnic majorities of being outnumbered by a minority or by migrants. This is fear that right wing populists have instrumentalized all over Europe but also in India and Turkey in the service of pro-natalist policies and programs.

Demographic calculations and designs, therefore, are never simply about quantity but always also about the quality of the population. They are never only about numbers but also about who should reproduce. For it is always those defined as the Other, who are seen to be too many and multiplying too fast. As Matthew Connolly has suggested concerns about the quality of the population arose simultaneously on several continents. Qualitative and quantitative considerations were often inextricably intertwined then and have remained so till today. Those concerned about restricting immigration of certain ethnic groups on grounds of their racial inferiority or high fertility were nevertheless in favour of a national population increase. This differential demographic treatment of migrants continues into the present.

Shalini Randeria also shed light on the alarming developments concerning women's rights under pro-natalist as well as anti-natalist reproductive governance today. Reproductive governance, whether anti- or pro-natalist, implemented through coercion or persuasion, through laws or financial incentives, curtails the autonomy of women to decide on whether, when and how many children they would like to bear and with whom. In different parts of the world women are under more or less subtle forms of pressure not to have children, or are being encouraged to have some more. Hard-won rights like the right to abortion or contraception are equally under attack in Poland, Turkey and in the US. Programmes to distribute cheap contraceptives in are hardly a move to empower women and strengthen their rights as proclaimed by the donors. Those initiatives reduce once again women’s rights to fertility control. Instead of investing in women’s health, education, employment and property rights, it suggests that their status can be simply improved by the panacea of contraception. If reproductive governance must be seen in an imperial and neo-imperial framework marked by the interplay of national and transnational, public and private actors, as Shalini Randeria argues, the struggle for some women’s rights like reproductive rights and reproductive autonomy has been a transnational one as well. Thus the weakness of a national and transnational women’s movement in the face of the current backlash against these rights is a matter of concern.

Today, we see neo-Malthusian concerns with so-called “over-population” in some parts of the world that jeopardises the “carrying capacity” of the globe and of ethno-nationalist and eugenics based efforts to increase population growth in other parts. Demographic panic seems to be all about numbers: the anxiety of either too large a population in the global South or one too small in the global North. The global boot seems to be at once too full and too empty.

See Shalini Randeria's full talk here. She illustrates her argument on the consequences of demographic panic leading to pro- or anti-natalist policies with many examples from Europe, Turkey, Latin America, Africa, India and China.

 Shalini Randeria is the Rector of the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) in Vienna and Research Director and Professor of Social Anthropology and Sociology at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) in Geneva. She was a member of the Advisory Board of the Zukunftskolleg from 2009 until 2012. The Zukunftskolleg honored her with the Zukunftskolleg Lecture that is awarded to excellent researchers who are closely related to and associated with the Zukunftskolleg.