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Open Access Publications from the University of California

'Women Know Their Place': Gender and the Politics of Public Health in Twentieth-Century Senegal

  • Author(s): Cole, Jonathan Joseph
  • Advisor(s): Kanogo, Tabitha
  • et al.
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This dissertation examines how the politicization of women’s reproductive health

and fertility presented new opportunities for women to assert themselves socially as well

as politically. From colonial policies designed to encourage maternity births during the

1920s and 1930s to contemporary efforts to promote the use of family planning and birth

control among Senegalese women, maternal and infant health initiatives transformed

women’s relationship to the state. Using these interventions as a backdrop, this project

explores the ways that women have appropriated the language of development to make

wider claims about their roles in Senegalese society. These findings challenge the

common assumption that public health interventions impose hierarchies of race, class,

and gender. Instead, they emphasize how Senegalese women transformed their positions

of subordination into platforms for social and political change. By embracing rather than

eschewing their roles as wives and mothers, women thus carved out new spaces of

authority and power.

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This item is under embargo until April 2, 2021.