Fertility Control: Reproductive Desires, Kin Work, and Women’s Status in Contemporary India


This article reappraises the link between fertility and women’s status by examining changing means and meanings of reproduction in India. It is based on data gathered during and after 16 months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2005 and 2007 in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India, on social and cultural contexts of infertility. Lucknow is the capital city of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. Historical views of population and fertility control in India and perspectives on the contemporary use of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) for practices such as surrogacy situate the ethnographic perspectives. Analysis of ARTs in practice complicates ideas of autonomy and choice in reproduction. Results show that these technologies allow women to challenge power relations within their marital families and pursue stigmatized forms of reproduction. However, they also offer new ways for families to continue and extend an old pattern of exerting control over women’s reproductive potential.