Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Roth on incest, abortion, and infanticide in Brazil

Cassia Roth (University of Georgia) published the following article this past fall: "In the family way: incest, fertility control, and the power of the patriarchal family in Brazil," Women's History Review (published online 24 Oct. 2020). Here is the abstract: 

This article argues that the legal prosecution of fertility control, defined here as abortion and infanticide, reshaped both governmental and individual patriarchal structures in turn-of-the-century Brazil. The article uses its then-capital region of Rio de Janeiro as a case study to explore the patriarchal parameters of the state during important political transitions in Brazilian history. Analyzing cases of incest that resulted in abortion or infanticide, the article shows that the Brazilian criminal justice system only prosecuted incest in conjunction with fertility control. Fertility control, unlike incest, undermined the patriarchal pattern because it threatened a societal order that limited women’s bodies to reproducing the nation. The article argues that only when incest was followed by fertility control did the state’s patriarchal goals of controlling women’s sexuality and reproduction supercede those of the male head-of-household. The courts only prosecuted men for fertility control when their actions threatened patriarchy more generally.

Further information is available here.

--Mitra Sharafi