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Of moths and candle flames: The aesthetics of fertility and childbearing in the northern areas of Pakistan

Collins, Teresa Mary Helen; (1997) Of moths and candle flames: The aesthetics of fertility and childbearing in the northern areas of Pakistan. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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For over forty years, demographers have been deployed to address the ongoing 'problem' of population growth which, it is argued, threatens the very sustainability of our planet. This thesis is an attempt to explore how an anthropological approach can complement that of demography and, in keeping with the 'new paradigm' that emerged from the 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development, facilitate a more contextualized analysis of fertility that considers processes of historical change, relations of differential power, cultural meanings and practices, and the lived experience of social actors themselves. Fieldwork was completed among the Wakhi of Gulmit village in northern Pakistan. This area has long been figural in European constructions of the Orient, and this study includes critical examination of the continuities between such constructions and contemporary discourses of development and population control. Following a review of the history of population policy in Pakistan, the study systematically maps out the relationship between local meanings and values ascribed to reproduction, and an embodied, but mutable, aesthetics of daily life. Aesthetic values are also shown to be implicated in local narrative representations which themselves reveal much about the relationship between constructions of the embodied self and emotion, experiences of dynamic gender relations, and reproductive histories. It is argued that, in Gulmit, reproduction does not lend itself to analysis as a discrete conceptual or experiential domain for its meanings and values are implicated in multiple, cross-cutting, historically-specific discourses. It is argued, too, that investigation of relevant processes of narrative synthesis can do much to complement existing, rather rationalistic, demographic models of fertility decision-making. Such an approach has implications for reproductive health policy, as well as, future research. In this respect, it is an approach which may help to transform population growth from a 'problem' into an opportunity.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Of moths and candle flames: The aesthetics of fertility and childbearing in the northern areas of Pakistan
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Social sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10106656
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