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CREES Lecture - "Consciously Made Children," "Living for Oneself," or "Giving Birth to a Patriot": Russia's Revival of Family Support and the Discursive Erasure of Gender Inequality

Thursday, November 6, 2008
12:00 AM
1636 International Institute/SSWB

Michele Rivkin-Fish, associate professor, Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Sponsored by the Center for Russian and East European Studies. Part of an International Institute Series on "Gender, Sexuality, Public Health, and Human Rights."


This paper investigates the socio-political implications that result when pronatalist politics drive social welfare programs. Recent Russian proposals that cite sustained national 'depopulation' as a justification for governmental support for women and families have been widely welcomed by the Russian public. And while advocates frame pronatalist policies as evidence of state benevolence towards families and governmental commitment to protecting the nation's future, the effects of such policies on gender equality remain largely invisible in public debate. This presentation brings a gendered perspective to the analysis of a new form of state support for mothers known as 'maternity capital.' It contextualizes the ways current pronatalist initiatives both resemble and depart from Soviet-era supports for fertility, tracing the conceptual basis of demographic politics from the 1960s through the present. The paper demonstrates how, despite appearing to acknowledge women's 'needs,' maternity capital and related pronatalist programs reproduce long-standing relations of inequality between Russian women and men. These policies are also intertwined with a nationalist-based demographic concern over the influx of non-Russian migrants. Finally, the paper compares Russia's nationalist-based demographic politics with policies in other parts of the world that aim to support work-family balance and gender equity, bringing into relief the discursive and institutional effects that result when demographic politics and social welfare are wedded to nationalist priorities.