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Reproduction in Retrospective, or What’s All the Fuss Over Low Fertility?

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International Handbook on Gender and Demographic Processes

Part of the book series: International Handbooks of Population ((IHOP,volume 8))

Abstract

This paper offers a retrospective look at reproductive politics centered on lowest-low fertility in Europe. Drawing on Italy as a case study, the author sorts out the conundrum of national concerns about fertility decline in light of global concerns about overpopulation. Ethnographic and archival research in central Italy during the past two decades provide material to argue that dire warnings constitutes a form of demographic nationalism. The author offers a critical deployment of ethnographic methods to counter a stubborn rationalist paradigm, which underwrites family planning despite evidence to the contrary. Small families have given rise to a culture of responsibility that dictates an intense set of expectations for Italian parents. Finally, the essay reminds how reproductive matters have histories, which intersect with dominant ideologies of class, race, and gender in profound ways. At the same time, changes in population structures result in new disparities and needs for new ways to contend with the present and imagine the future.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    See also Matt Payton, 2 September 2016, The Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/italys-baby-making-campaign-fertility-day-birth-rate-an-angry-response-fertility-a7221321.html. Accessed November 17, 2017.

  2. 2.

    Pronatalism under the fascist regime included coercive as well as incentive measures. The regime changed abortion from a crime against the person to a crime against the race and nation. Contraception and information about it were illegal. The regime’s pronatalist drive was also expressed through propaganda about motherhood . See de Grazia 1992, Horn 1994, Ipsen 1996, Krause 1994, Passerini 1987, and Snowden 2006.

  3. 3.

    Population Reference Bureau, 2001 World Population Data Sheet. http://

    www.prb.org, accessed 15 June 2002. By 2005, Italy’s Total Fertility Rate had risen slightly to 1.3 births per woman (PRB, 2005 World Population Data Sheet, accessed 1 June 2006). The newer data sheets do not include a column with the country’s view about whether fertility rates are too low. http://www.prb.org, accessed 20 November 2017.

  4. 4.

    “Italia? Vecchia e senza bambini,” La Stampa, 25 July 1997, p. 17. Thanks to Massimo Bressan for this reference; “Culle più vuote, l’Italia cresce solo per l’apporto degli immigrati,” La Nazione, 27 June 1997, p. 7.

  5. 5.

    L’Espresso, 26 June 1997. Thanks to Luciana Fellin for this cartoon.

  6. 6.

    Itti Drioli, “Le ‘tavole’ del Papa conquiestano il Parlamento,” La Nazione, Quotiadano Nazionale, Prato, 15 November 2002, pp. 3–5.

  7. 7.

    Martin draws inspiration from examinations of tactics of colonial authority (Stoler 2004, 4).

  8. 8.

    Anthropologists and demographers for decades grappled with satisfactory explanations for fertility decline, building on the Princeton European Fertility Project, which concluded that the timing of fertility decline did not correlate well with economic development or demographic variables, thereby disproving a hypothesis that fertility decline had universal explanations and showing that it did not always or predictably coincide with modernization measures (Coale and Watkins 1986). This failure led to an interest in cultural setting; however, vague and reified notions of “culture” plagued demographic research (Kertzer 1995, 31–32, 43–4); see (Schneider and Schneider 1996) for explanations of differential, historic fertility decline.

  9. 9.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/23/baby-crisis-europe-brink-depopulation-disaster. Accessed 17 November 2017; https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/14/world/europe/italy-births-fertility-europe.html. Accessed 20 November 2017.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth L. Krause .

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Krause, E.L. (2018). Reproduction in Retrospective, or What’s All the Fuss Over Low Fertility?. In: Riley, N., Brunson, J. (eds) International Handbook on Gender and Demographic Processes. International Handbooks of Population, vol 8. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-024-1290-1_5

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