04 October 2018

Review: Eugenic Feminism by Asha Nadkarni

Hardcover, 264 pages
Published 2014
Borrowed from the library
Read September 2018
Eugenic Feminism: Reproductive Nationalism in the United States and India
by Asha Nadkarni

I found the idea of this book really intriguing: Nadkarni traces the relationship between feminism and eugenics across the twentieth century in the literature of the U.S. and in India. Many prominent feminists were eugenicists in both countries, and I imagine that the potential for seeing how scientific concepts influenced human rights discourse would be quite strong. Unfortunately, I don't think the book ever really coheres into a strong narrative. It's more a series of observations on various aspects of women, eugenics, and literature, but I was never convinced of the idea that there was a "eugenic feminism" strand running through literature in either country. Like, the discussion of Kamala Markandaya's Nectar in a Sieve has potential, but I never saw the eugenics in it. The strongest part of the book was the discussion of Katherine Mayo's book Mother India (1927), which seemed to fuse feminist rhetoric and anti-immigrant rhetoric to argue in favor of American isolationism.

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