A study charges Western researchers with First World cultural imperialism

Science that Colonizes

A Critique of Fertility Studies in Africa

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Agnes Riedmann

"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

Agnes Riedmann argues that the authority of First World scientists to penetrate the Third World for research has its roots in the 15th century idea of a "right to invade." Introducing "World System Demography," a global, bureaucratically administered science that is controlled by the First World elite, she analyzes three large-scale research projects that were carried out among the Yoruba in Nigeria in the early 1970s. She maintains that World System Demography, exemplified by such studies, is an agent of First World-directed cultural imperialism.

Charging that World System Demography is an extension of the Western family planning/birth control movement, Riedmann critically analyzes how even the collection of data ultimately promotes contraception. Using the reports of interviewers, she illustrates how Western assumptions conflict with those of the research population, and she discusses policy considerations.



Read a review from Canadian Journal of African Studies, Volume 32.1 (1998), written by Karol J. Krotki (pdf).



Maps and Tables

1. Introduction: World-System Demography and the Yoruba
Bureaucratic Surveillance • The CAFN Projects • From World-System Theory to World-System Demography • Nigerian Demographic Data • The Yoruba • What Follows

2. Historical Prelude: Bringing Yorubaland into the World System
Eurocentric Devaluation of the Yoruba • Deconstruction of the Indigenous Economy • Advancing Bureaucratic Surveillance • Resistance and Political Liberation • Nigeria Today • Demographic Parallels with the Historical Themes • Conclusion

3. The Yoruba Fieldworkers: Emissaries of Bureaucratic Surveillance
The Subordinates as Yorubas • The Bureaucratic Supervision Network • Ongoing Training • Conclusion

4. Gaining Entrance
"Block 40" and Surveillance • Utilizing Cultural Capital from Two Worlds • Sources of Difficulty • Invading Subjects' Territorial Selves • Conclusion

5. The Lessons Inherent in the CAFN Projects
Disciplining Power and Docile Bodies • Lesson 1: The "Real" Family Is the Nuclear Family • Lesson 2: Children Should be Evaluated According to a Cost Calculus • Lesson 3: Western Contraceptive Methods are Morally Acceptable as Traditional Measures • Lesson 4: Personal Efficacy is Normal and Natural • Lesson 5: Placing Oneself under Bureaucratic Surveillance is Normal and Natural • Conclusion

6. Resisting the Lessons
"I strongly suspect that she lied" • "This attitude is foreign to African society" • "The poor man must not lack both wealth and children" • "She is not interested in such topics" • "Things should be allowed to happen as it pleases God" • Restating the Yoruba Case • The Effect of Western Schooling on Compliance • Conclusion

7. The CAFN Projects as Exercises in World-System Demography: Policy Considerations
Exploitation and Reactivity • World-System Demography and Funding Agencies • Opening Doors • Conclusion

Appendix A: The Study Design
Appendix B: Description of Background Documents, with Samples


About the Author(s)

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

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Health, Society, and Policy, edited by Sheryl Ruzek and Irving Kenneth Zola.

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Health, Society and Policy, edited by Sheryl Ruzek and Irving Kenneth Zola, takes a critical stance with regard to health policy and medical practice, ranging broadly in subject matter. Backlist titles include books on the legal and professional status of midwifery, the experience and regulation of kidney transplants, the evolution of federal law on architectural access, and a political/ethical argument for making the community responsible for universal access to health care.



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