In Reproductive Realities in Modern China: Birth Control and Abortion, 1911-2021 (Cambridge UP, 2022), assistant professor of history at Missouri State University, Sarah Mellors Rodriguez explores the longue durée history of birth control and abortion in China from the Republican period to the present day. Drawing from a rich array of archival materials, oral histories, posters, films, novels, and other media, she delves into the diverse attitudes, policies, and practices of birth control and abortion from 1911 to 2021.
In this episode, Rodriguez shares how she first became interested in birth control in China and her research process and decisions. She then walks listeners through her book, paying special attention to the lived experiences of women whose decisions about birth control were often mediated by geography, class, and shifting regional and national policies and enforcement. By tracing birth control and abortion in China over a long period, she is able to identify persistent trends and specific features of each period covered–the Republican period, the early People’s Republic of China, the Cultural Revolution and Sent-Down Student Movement, and the era of the One Child Policy. Sarah Mellors Rodriguez has crafted her book in a thorough, thoughtful manner, not only contributing new details and insights about birth control and abortion in China before, during, and after the One Child Policy but also commenting on the larger themes of sexuality and the law, gender, medicine, and modern China.
Laurie Dickmeyer is an Assistant Professor of History at Angelo State University, where she teaches courses in Asian and US history. Her research concerns nineteenth century US-China relations. She can be reached at laurie.dickm
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