Version classiqueVersion mobile
OpenEdition Books

Between Past and Future

 | 
Sorin Antohi

III. Vulnerabilities of the New Democracies

11. Gendering Postsocialism: Reproduction as Politics in East Central Europe

Gail Kligman et Susan Gal

Texte intégral

1It is striking that abortion was among the first issues raised by virtually all of the postsocialist governments of East Central Europe. In Romania, liberalization of abortion was the second decree issued by the provisional government upon the fall of the Ceauşescu regime. Reconciling abortion’s legality in East Germany with its restriction in West Germany almost derailed German unification. In Poland the question was a permanent feature of the parliamentary agenda. But abortion was only one of a range of issues associated with sexuality and human reproduction that has taken center stage in public consciousness since 1989. In the former Yugoslavia, rape was a weapon of war. Because women who had been raped and the children who resulted from rape were ostracized and rejected by their own ethnic groups, rape was also and intentionally a tool of “ethnic cleansing” through its tragic reproductive consequences. Unwanted babies became a political issue in Romania and Germany as well, but in different ways. A private adoption market in babies, not all of whom were unwanted by their birth mothers, emerged in Romania. The rate of voluntary sterilization increased dramatically among East German women, which produced a political scandal when it was noticed and labeled a “birth strike” by the mass media.

  • 1 This article is excerpted from S. Gal and G. Kligman, The Politics of Gender after Socialism (Prin (...)

2Throughout the region, as democratic institutions were created, fiscal and constitutional crises threatened, and legislative politics were rethought in dramatic ways, the leaders (themselves mostly male) of the new East Central European states also heatedly debated questions of “proper” sex, birthrates, contraception, family, and child care. We wondered at this attention. We also questioned how gender relations and ideas about gender are shaping political and economic changes in the region and what forms of gender inequality are being created. In this article, we focus on one aspect of the gendering of postsocialism: namely, how political process is influenced by reproductive issues, or how public discussion about reproduction makes politics1.

  • 2 This definition relies on the influential work of J. Scott, Gender and the Politics of History (Ne (...)

3We define gender as the socially and culturally produced ideas about male-female difference, power and inequality that structure the reproduction of these differences in the institutionalized practices of society2. What it means to be a “man” or “woman”, to be “masculine” or “feminine”, varies historically. Such cultural categories are formed through everyday interactions that are framed within larger discourses and within specific institutions. There are reciprocal influences here: not only do state policies constrain gender relations, but ideas about the differences between men and women shape the ways in which states are imagined, constituted and legitimized. Thus, states themselves can be imagined as male, even though both men and women are involved in their operation; social categories such as “worker” can be identified with a single gender as well, even if both men and women work. Such socially constructed ideas linking femininity and masculinity to other social categories are often embedded in state policies.

4Ideas about gender difference are also implicitly engaged in the forms of market expansion in the region. For example, if we examine how women and men are differently located in the emerging national economies, then the pervasive yet relatively ignored feminization of small scale, service sector marketization comes to the fore. In shaping institutional change, ideas about gender difference interact systematically with other central cultural categories such as the nation, the family, and the public good. At the same time, the ideologies and policies that states promote, as well as the constraints and incentives of economies, circumscribe the range of possible relations between men and women.

  • 3 See, for example, I. Dölling, D. Hahn, and S. Scholz, “Birth Strike in the New Federal States: Is (...)
  • 4 The feminist literature on the public and private spheres is voluminous, with M. Rosaldo, “Woman, (...)
  • 5 G. Kligman, “The Politics of Reproduction in Ceauşescu’s Romania”, East European Politics and Soci (...)
  • 6 F. Ginsburg and R. Rapp, “The Politics of Reproduction”, Annual Review of Anthropology 20 (1991): (...)
  • 7 G. Kligman, The Politics of Duplicity: Controlling Reproduction in Ceauşescu’s Romania (Berkeley: (...)
  • 8 F. Ginsburg and R. Rapp, eds. Conceiving the New World Order: The Global Politics of Reproduction (...)

5According to liberal theory, as well as sociological common sense, human reproduction is associated with the private sphere of domesticity and family and not the public sphere of politics, civil society, and state-formation. Yet the politicians, publishers, and media consumers who constituted the first democratic parliaments and public spheres after 1989 heatedly raised such allegedly private issues3. For feminist scholars, who have argued that the distinction between private and public is less a straightforward description of social domains than an ideologized dichotomy that produces the appearance of separation between activities that are nonetheless closely linked, this heightened interest in reproductive issues is hardly surprising4. It represents yet more evidence of important relations between supposedly private activities such as childbirth and child-rearing and public activities such as political debate. It is an example of the politics of reproduction, a field that studies the “intersection of politics and the life cycle5”. The politics of reproduction takes as its object of study the “seemingly distant power relations [that] shape local reproductive experiences6” and investigates how “state policy and ideological control are experienced in everyday life7”. It shows as well how reproduction “provides a terrain for imagining new cultural futures8”. Indeed, the laws, regulations and administrative apparatuses that the new states are installing will have long-range repercussions on the ways in which women in East Central Europe give birth and how people practice contraception, raise their children and imagine their own and their children’s futures.

  • 9 Gal, “Gender in the Post-Socialist Transition”, 258.

6Yet the politics of reproduction encompases not only how distant power relations affect childbirth, but also how political process itself is shaped through the discussion and control of reproduction. Debates about reproduction thus additionally “reveal the ways in which politics is being reconstituted, contested, and newly legitimated9”. Here, we suggest four interrelated ways in which reproductive issues and policies are key features of the changing political landscape of East Central Europe: public discussions about reproductive issues (1) contribute to recasting the relationship between the state and its citizens; (2) serve as coded discussions about political legitimacy and the morality of the state; (3) constitute women as political actors in particular ways; and (4) make and remake the nation and its boundaries.

  • 10 To study empirically the involvement of states in reproduction, it is necessary to reject any defi (...)
  • 11 Thus, Frederick the Great compared his own backward Prussia with fortunate Holland that, though va (...)

7Human reproduction is the means by which both individuals and collectivities assure their continuity. It is a ground for political battle in part because states, families, and other social actors all understand themselves as having much at stake in the control of child-bearing and child-rearing10. Historically constructed and variable, these diverse perspectives or “interests” in reproduction are often at odds. Turning first to the interests of states in reproduction, throughout much of history, the vigor of the individual body has long served as a sign of the health or infirmity of the body politic; moreover, the health of a state has been linked to the rapid reproduction of its inhabitants. Building on this tradition, early modern political-economic theorists argued that population must be a central concern of statecraft. By the seventeenth century, the basis of a state’s wealth and power was understood to lie in the size and productivity of its population. A large population increased the strength of armies and made available increasing supplies of labor11.

  • 12 Cited in Gallagher, “The Body vs. Social Body”, 83.

8By the eighteenth century, not only did a large population make a strong state, but the abundance of inhabitants testified to the state’s morality: “Every wise, just and mild government...will always abound most in people...”, noted David Hume12. This link between population and the state’s morality was a continuing theme in European politics. But at the end of the century, Hume’s optimistic conviction was shaken by Malthus’s thesis outlining the inevitable, socially deleterious effects of unbridled population increase. Steadily increasing populations came to be seen by some as less a reward than a danger to the orderly state. Suffice it to note that, whether population increase or decrease was at issue, the control of population remained defined as a matter of state.

9The political concern with numbers of inhabitants gave rise to a growing interest of administrators in the life-condition of a territory’s inhabitants. With the help of emerging disciplines (such as statistics, geography, etc.), population could be shaped and controlled through “policing” or regulation. The pronatalist activities of liberal, fascist, and communist states in the twentieth century have a long pedigree, forming part of what Foucault has called “bio-politics”. The tracks of state power are evident in the legal enforcement of normative (reproductive) hetero-sexuality, the surveillance of women’s bodies, and attempts to control women’s fertility.

  • 13 An excellent overview of feminist historiography on family strategies and social reproduction in E (...)

10Shifting now to the concerns of families in the regulation of childbirth, generations of social historians, anthropologists, and historical demographers have conceptualized shifting population pyramids in Europe as the result of diverse and changing family strategies meant to ensure the inheritance of land, name, and property; to cement social continuity; to provide objects of love and recipients for consumption; or to fill family needs for labor or income13. Furthermore, social historians and historical sociologists have also shown that within families there may be systematic struggles between men and women who are committed to different arrangements in the timing, gender, and number of their offspring.

  • 14 S. Michel and S. Koven, “Womanly Duties: Maternalist Politics and the Origins of the Welfare State (...)

11Social movements such as feminism, republicanism, labor unionism, eugenics, and nationalism, as well as various religious movements, also have ideologies of reproduction14. Very often, these movements define themselves through some implicit or explicit Utopias in which images of ideal forms of reproduction and continuity play a crucial role: they define who should reproduce and how much; who should be responsible for which aspects of reproduction for what kind of remuneration or return; and how reproduction is related to morality.

12Rhetorical battles among these variously constructed perspectives can be mobilized at any time. But they are unavoidable at times of political rupture, such as the events of 1989, when new and old elites negotiate and struggle over state forms. At such junctures, not only are the political players reshuffled, but the rules of the political project are radically rethought and reorganized. For the remainder of this paper, we will address the aforementioned ways in which reproductive issues and policies are key features of the changing political contexts of East Central Europe.

  • 15 In 1997, a Czech couple brought home a Roma child from a children’s institution; however, the chil (...)

13First, discourses about reproduction contribute to the reconstitution of the relationship between a state and its populace. State making is a process of establishing and maintaining centralized authority over a territory and its inhabitants. But authority can be imagined in many ways. Whether people are figured in state discourses as “subjects”, “citizens”, “workers”, “brothers-in-nationhood”, “children”, or “family members” (which are not always mutually exclusive) is dramatically enacted and demonstrated in practice through the implementation and justification of strictures on reproduction and sexuality. Such strictures also define who is a proper member of the state’s populace. Thus, “citizens” are in many cases implicitly recognized as deserving of that title and a set of attendant “rights” by their display of particular forms of legally acceptable, usually reproductive (or hetero-), sexuality. When co-nationhood is how the state defines its relation to a populace, the boundaries of the horizontal fraternity that is the nation are defined by the details of reproductive behavior. To determine if a person is a legitimate member of the nation one must ask: Whose children are they and on what territory were they born?15 In short, a state’s relation to a populace—as paternalist, contractual, spiritual—is in part represented and performed through the control of reproductive practice.

  • 16 M. Ferree and E. Maleck-Levy, “Talking about Women and Wombs”.
  • 17 For details on the Hungarian abortion debate, see Gal, “Gender in the Post-Socialist Transition”. (...)

14Thus, for instance, when Hungarian leaders discussed the abortion issue from 1990 to 1992, a major concern was whether the relevant legal code was a “regulation” or a “law”. Some leaders argued that if the inhabitants of Hungary were to be treated as the citizens of a democracy, no longer the infantile children of a paternalistic communist state that issued dictates, then matters of importance such as reproduction should be legislated by properly elected parliamentary representatives. If under communism legalizing or delegalizing abortion was a feature of party policies, they said, then for that very reason it now had to be challenged and negotiated as law, even if its substance was not at issue. In Germany, the obligation of the state to its citizens, and vice versa, was also at issue but in a different way. West German opinion put the fetus first, starting deliberations from the perspective of protecting its rights. East German opinion charged that while unification promised democracy and liberal rights, the restriction of abortion laws constituted a loss of democracy and individual rights for women16. The debate on abortion in East Germany was very much about which classes of people would be favored for the supposedly universal category of “citizen17”.

  • 18 For instance, in contrast to Eastern and Western Europe, American battles about abortion have been (...)

15A second way in which reproduction and sexuality contribute to the reconstruction of states explores such debates as coded discussions about claims to political legitimacy. That is, the issue of reproduction offers a means by which the morality and desirability of political institutions may be imagined and claims for the “goodness” of state forms may be made. Reproduction as veiled, allegorical talk about the political future is by no means peculiar to postsocialist transformations, but the nature of the politicization, the details of the arguments, reveal much about the particular polity in which they occur18.

  • 19 See, for example, J. Sztaniszkis, The Dynamics of Breakthrough in Eastern Europe: The Polish Exper (...)

16In many of the newly constituted democracies of East Central Europe, debating the legal control of reproduction or of proper sexuality has been part of ongoing struggles for legitimacy among competing elites. Socialist states were chronically weak. For their inheritors, state forms continue to be deeply contested19. A contrast between the morality of democracy and the immorality of communism was often highlighted in particular through debates about their contrasting approaches to abortion legislation. If, as many claim, communism went against nature in allowing women to circumvent motherhood (excepting Romania), postcommunist states promised to restore a natural gender order, hoping thereby to rectify the wrongs of this “illegitimate” past. Discussions about human reproduction and sexuality have enormous power to moralize politics because reproduction raises fundamental issues about life and death. By discussing politics through the allegory of reproduction, politicians effectively efface their own ambitions, appearing to favor political arrangements not because politicians themselves might benefit, but because they stand for an independent moral good: to protect the fetus, the mother, the nation, or domestic privacy.

17Whatever the justification for particular positions, reproductive debate is one of the few ways in which it is possible to avoid the shadow of self-interest, even in the face of cynical audiences. Such avoidance was—and is—particularly important in East Central Europe where political activity itself has been deeply stigmatized as nothing but opportunism and corruption. Thus, political actors indirectly demonstrate their own moral credentials through their concern with the future or their version of morality (in implicit opposition to the lack of morality associated with the formerly godless communist states). They make claims for the rightness of the political structures and initiatives they favor not by talking about governance per se, but by stating their positions on questions such as abortion, sterilization, women’s sexuality, the proper forms of family life. Indeed, the legislation of such morality for its citizens is one way in which a state or government can appear as a moral actor in social life.

  • 20 Zielińska, “Between Ideology, Politics, and Common Sense”.
  • 21 Dölling, et. al, “Birth Strike”.

18For example, in Romania the immediate legalization of abortion upon the fall of the Ceauşescu regime was not only a response to overwhelming popular sentiment, but also a gesture giving the provisional government the moral high-ground against the inhuman policies of Ceauşescu’s regime. In Poland, by contrast, it was through the restriction of abortion during the same period that politicians attempted to signal the new Solidarity-dominated government’s morality, opposition to communism, and alliance with the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church remains actively engaged in the on-going abortion debate in Poland’s parliament. Zieli-ńska cites a recent example of the Church’s attempts to define the morality of a democratic state: a prior of the Jasna Gora monastery condemned pro-abortion deputies for treason to the motherland, noting that these deputies “had divested themselves of the moral right to represent Poland”. Similarly, a bishop expressed both admiration for the mothers of those deputies who voted for liberalization because these women had not aborted, and regret because Poland would have been better off had these deputies not been born20. The case of the sterilization scandal in the unified Germany was different from Romania and Poland. The apparent refusal of some East German women to have more children emerged as a media story in which the former West Germany and its political legitimacy were presented as more desirable because it was more modern, more orderly, more humane, and more moral than the backward, chaotic, and immoral eastern Germany21.

  • 22 Zielińska, “Between Ideology, Politics, and Common Sense”.

19Examples of reproduction as allegory abound. During the Hungarian abortion debate in the early 1990s, those who argued that personal morality in abortion decisions should not be legislated were liberals—in the European sense—who also demanded a minimal state and limitations on state intrusion into private life. In this way, the discourse on human reproduction became an integral part of the process by which new state forms were constructed. Or, turning again to Poland, a politician’s opinion on abortion continues to be, in everyday politics, a litmus test usually revealing his opinion on many other issues, ranging from the relationship between church and state to social welfare questions22. In the reunified Germany, as alluded to above, representatives of the west German media and government, concerned about declining birthrates (or the “unprecedented demographic collapse”) and reports of women from the eastern part of Germany having themselves sterilized, accused women of going on a “birth strike”. Yet interviews with women from the former East Germany who had been sterilized demonstrate the gap between the morality tales created by the mass media from the reproductive behavior of women, and the actual experiences of women of different walks of life. The women who had been sterilized noted having achieved their desired family size, trying to reconcile fertility with falling incomes or unemployment, and trying to secure a job. In both Hungary and Poland, elites arguing about abortion have also attempted to constitute the political principles according to which they wished to be judged in routine politics. Should leaders be chosen according to their moral standards or their expertise? Populist or Catholic politicians, conservative physicians, and lawyers insisted that only they understood the full moral weight of questions about abortion and, by implication, only they were fit to govern.

  • 23 Petchesky, Abortion and Woman’s Choice, and Z. Eisenstein, The Radical Future of Liberal Feminism (...)

20There is a third way in which debates about reproduction make politics. Such public arguments constitute women as a political group, characterizing women as political actors of a particular kind. The way the political roles of women are constituted varies considerably across systems. Yet debates about reproduction repeatedly face a fundamental contradiction: whether to treat women as producers or reproducers. This contradiction has been a perennial dilemma, differently handled in different historical moments and political systems. In liberal polities, the notion of rights assumes that for political purposes men and women are alike. However, for reproduction this is not the case; men and women are corporeally different, underlining the inconsistency of the “equal treatment” legislation that is the hallmark of liberalism23. During the communist period, women, like others, were treated as a corporate category. Their difference was legally “recognized”. All communist states were pronatalist to greater or lesser degrees. Motherhood—and the production of more workers—was one of women’s duties; wage labor was always another.

21Since 1989, nationalist politics have become more explicit in many countries. And within most nationalist discourses, women and men are assumed to have quite different roles and subjectivities. Women are understood to owe a special kind of patriotic duty to the nation. Women give birth, are identified with spiritual values, and safeguard what is seen as the archaic, morally laden tradition of the past. Motherhood becomes sacred and is viewed as the primary form of female political agency. Recall the accusation in the German case mentioned above: women had exercised their special, essentialized form of political will by engaging in a birth strike against the very survival of the nation.

  • 24 M. Fuszara, “New Gender Relations in Poland in the 1990s”, in Reproducing Gender: Politics, Public (...)
  • 25 K. Daskalova, “Women’s Problems, Women’s Discourses in Bulgaria”, in Reproducing Gender, eds. Gal (...)

22Discussions of reproduction also have a more direct effect in defining women as potential actors in political arenas. Anti-abortion legislation in Poland after 1989 motivated women to organize into groups that actively opposed this legislation; the abortion law produced women’s groups that would not otherwise have materialized. Yet politics in East Central Europe, as elsewhere, is not only about politics; it is also a career path and work possibility for some segment of the population. In a situation in which forty years of communist rule created women who are at least as well—if not better—educated than men and who actually have political experience (in most cases as a result of quota systems), new arguments are needed to justify the claim by men of privileged access to the political arena as a newly created and often lucrative occupation. The communist party may be out, but who should go into politics? In Poland, arguments about women’s responsibilities as reproducers are often made by politicians who are redefining the work of politics as specially suited to men, that is, as requiring specifically male talents24. Similar discussions about the suitability of men and women for politics are also evident in Bulgaria and Romania25.

23Finally, one of the most dramatic ways in which debates about reproduction, along with the practices they propose and justify, are crucial in state making is in the (re)constitution of the nation and its boundaries. “Nation” is a category of identity, a system of social classification, a means of constructing the relationship between a state and (at least part of) its populace. While nations represent horizontal solidarities, that is, “imagined communities”, states are centralized organizational structures with claims to sovereignty over a territory. People living within a particular polity need not be members of the same nation, and vice versa. Indeed, national identities are classically formed through oppositions and exclusions. That is, national identity is most often created against other cohabitating nations, or against colonizers or “natives”, and also by ignoring other categories of identity (class, race, or region, for instance). We take nationalism to be a social movement built around (contestable) claims to such identity, one that is sometimes directed towards the capture of a state apparatus by those claiming to be members of a particular nation. But, whether demanding the formation of a new state or more influence within an already constituted state, nationalist arguments are a way of mobilizing collective action and thus bringing into being the solidary collectivity—the nation—itself.

  • 26 Silva Mežnarić, “Populacionizam I Demokracija: Hrvatska Nakon Osamostaljenja”, Erasmus 19 (1997): (...)

24In the strategies of political actors, nation and state are often intertwined. Thus, many anticommunist arguments in the post-1989 years identified new leaders as more authentically linked to their populace—and thus more “representative” of them in this special, and nondemocratic sense—because they were conationals (Croats and Serbs, Hungarians, Romanians, etc). Fears about the “death of the nation”, justified by reference to falling birth rates, are a recurrent theme all over Europe. They gain general political significance when the interests of states are assumed to be coterminous with an increase in population of a single or dominant national group inhabiting the state’s territory. Such policies are not at all incompatible with policies that simultaneously discourage the increase of another group, deemed less worthy or less legitimately linked to the state. Much has been written about this with respect to Nazi Germany. In Franjo Tudjman’s Croatia, the demographic renewal project was aimed at increasing the number of ethnic Croats by increasing births, curtailing emigration, and resettling Croat populations on Croatia’s territory26.

25It hardly needs emphasizing that in most forms of nationalist thought, biological reproduction and biological continuity are the centerpieces of imagining community and solidarity. Although nations are often enlarged and diminished by migration and assimilation, nationalist ideology routinely ignores or eradicates these processes and instead highlights blood ties. And while individuals may have claims to several national identities, and boundaries between categories are often permeable or fuzzy, nationalist discourse erases such “messiness”. For most forms of nationalism, making the members of the nation is not only a symbolic classifying process, but also very much a material, embodied one: links between generations must, perforce, be reproductive links, embodiments of membership that guarantee a relationship to the future and to the past. And some forms of reproduction (for example, both parents as members of the same national group, or the mother as a member, or birth occurring on national territory) are defined as the sole legitimate means of national reproduction.

  • 27 The feminist literature on nation and gender covers most contemporary nation-states. The collectio (...)

26Remarkably, modern theorists of nationalism—among them Anderson, Gellner, Hobsbawm, Horowitz and Smith—have had little to say about the role of gender and reproduction in nationalism. But feminist criticism of this omission has produced an important literature on gender and nation as linked cultural categories, and operative in political action27. Studies of gender and nationalism have, for example, analyzed nationalism’s family imagery that usually casts the nation as female and the state as male, simultaneously eroticizing the relation between men and the nation and valorizing motherhood.

  • 28 See B. Denitch, “Sex and Power in the Balkans”, in Woman, Culture and Society, eds. Rosaldo and La (...)
  • 29 In Croatia, five women who criticized Tudjman’s policies were labeled “witches” (see, for example, (...)

27The focus on motherhood and women as “vessels of the nation” also carries an interesting contradiction. Because national movements are most often conceptualized as “deep horizontal (male) fraternities”, they often implicitly adopt the logic of patrilineal systems, in which women are not only the indispensable locus of continuity and the bearers of tradition, but also the outsiders who must be controlled: through the potential of their unruly sexual behavior, they are seen to pose a threat to the group28. Thus, women are blamed for demographic decline, women are charged with engaging in “birth strikes”, women are accused of siding with political systems such as communism which are considered to be unnatural, or of committing treason if they do not wish their sons to die in wars. Oddly, then, the common narrative of national “victimization” by outside forces, especially by other nearby nations, can also often include a narrative of the nation victimized by its own women, who are seen as internal enemies29. The control of women thus becomes a logical project of nationalism. A classic means of such control is the regulation of women’s reproductive capacity by forcing unwanted births or restricting wanted ones.

  • 30 G. Kligman, “Women and the Negotiation of Identity in Post-Communist Eastern Europe”, in Identitie (...)

28It is in part this link between nationhood and reproduction that made the use of rape in the Yugoslav war such a powerful weapon. The irony of ethnic cleansing, based ostensibly on the idea of national difference, is that the various sides understood each other only too well. As others have pointed out, the tactic of mass rape was effective because of similarity: all sides were speaking in the idiom of biologized essences in which women were the bearers of group identity. This is what made rape and the threat of rape not a crime against particular women, but a threat to the purity, honor, and ultimately the survival and future of the group30.

  • 31 This also hides a further embarrassment. Part of the reason for population decline in Croatia, Pol (...)

29Thus, within the context of nationalist discourse focused on biological reproduction, state policies that regulate reproductive practices gain importance for a variety of reasons. Indeed, we have come full circle, back to the interests of state agencies in the control of reproduction. But here we see such interests justified not as an expression of a state’s relation to its “subjects” or “citizens”, but rather a government justifying its acts as the protection of the “national essence”. Comparing Ceauşescu’s policies with those of Serbia after 1989 nicely highlights this distinction. In Ceauşescu’s Romania, abortion was forbidden for everyone, regardless of nationality, education, or other characteristics. In Serbia, laws were framed as a matter of encouraging the disproportionate increase of some subsets of the population—those considered the authentic or “proper” citizens of the state. The two policies are equivalent in demanding a sacrifice from women for the “collectivity” which, however, was the socialist state in Romania and the Serb nation in the other. They differ in that nationalist policies create a social hierarchy ostensibly based on the inheritance of biological characteristics in the case of Serbia, which was not so in Ceauşescu’s policy aimed at transforming all individuals of co-inhabitating nationalities into new citizens of the Socialist Republic of Romania. A demographic panic expressed in the motto “the nation is dying” often hides the fact that population decline is a problem because immigration is not seen as a legitimate way of increasing population. Only some inhabitants—not immigrants—count as genuine citizens31.

30Many levels and aspects of state organization can be mobilized for the construction of biologized national selves. All involve reproduction in some way: legal strictures on who may many whom; regulations on what constitutes “normal” sexuality; the proper work of men and women; assumptions (often written into tax codes) about acceptable family forms concerning who is expected to provide child care and other care-taking support; the timing, rate, and ease of marriage and divorce. Clearly, not only ideas about nationhood, but also about health, respectability, sexuality, and idealized gender are often involved. The social actors who espouse them may be politicians, bureaucrats, or administrators. The ideas, when legislated and enacted, create the embodied boundaries by which national selves, and ultimately national groups, are systematically produced.

  • 32 Zielińska, “Between Ideology, Politics, and Common Sense”.

31In outlining these four ways in which discourses of reproduction make politics, we have been arguing that state policies concerning the linked issues of reproduction, contraception, and normative sexuality are importantly shaped by the ways in which discussions and struggles around reproduction are used in a broader political field. In this sense, reproductive discourses make politics regardless of the actual effects on reproductive behavior. Public debates have strong effects on the shaping of negotiations and strategies from which such laws emerge32.

  • 33 Kligman, The Politics of Duplicity.

32In turn, the laws and regulations that result from a political process, while never entirely determining action, nevertheless impact upon the range of actual practices of reproduction that are possible for ordinary men and women. They define the boundaries of legality, as well as the official expectations and imagery against which people must struggle and which they may on occasion resist33. And so we have returned to the classic subject matter of the politics of reproduction: the effect of seemingly distant power relations on local reproductive experiences.

  • 34 Zielińska, “Between Ideology, Politics, and Common Sense”.
  • 35 Dölling, et al., “Birth Strike in the New Federal States”.

33Furthermore, between the political arguments already discussed and the processes that frame a policy and put it into practice, there are inevitable compromises, lapses, gaps, and contradictions. In any polity, men and women also ignore, reinterpret, and deflect explicit state actions and maneuver around them, creating and engaging alternatives outside the purview of legal strictures and state structures. As a result, the routine forms of everyday reproductive practice that emerge depend not only on the framing of issues and the range of rhetorical patterns reviewed here, but also on the details of national and political contexts and on broadly economic—and sometimes international—processes that fall outside the domains of state agencies. In Poland, for instance, some doctors have set up private abortion clinics where they make healthy profits performing abortions that are apparently morally offensive to them when done in state-supported hospitals during customary working hours34. Reproductive questions intersect with market interests in other ways as well. Some east German women who have themselves sterilized are acting in part to improve their chances in a newly hypercompetitive job market that rewards women who can prove they will have no reproductive responsibilities that might interf ere with their work35. Some scholars have argued that the invocation of reproductive responsibility is being used as a way to get women out of the labor market at a time of economic restructuring that requires the streamlining of production and, relatedly, increasing unemployment.

  • 36 Zielińska, “Between Ideology, Politics, and Common Sense”; Kligman, The Politics of Duplicity.
  • 37 A. Baban, “Women’s Sexuality and Reproductive Behavior in Post-Ceauşescu Romania: A Psychological (...)

34There are also important international dimensions to reproductive policies and practices. States that legislate against abortion within their boundaries often do not interfere with women travelling abroad for “abortion tourism36”. This has become a popular strategy for women who have the money to do so, which produces an income stratification in reproductive practices. The increased availability of contraceptives has had a similar effect, since they are not available to everyone37. The influence of the Vatican on Polish parliamentary discussions of abortion has already been mentioned, but the Vatican is only one of the many transnational organizations that pressure East Central European governments. Romania has repeatedly resisted West European insistence that homosexuality be decriminalized. Clearly, local discourses are powerful even in the face of international pressure.

35Such dynamics have repercussions not only on the domestic front but also the international. How governments react to International Monetary Fund and World Bank advice on social benefits or reproductive health and family planning strategies, how reproductive policies are seen to intersect with minority politics, how the criminalization of homosexuality is seen to violate democratic rights: all contribute to the way the states of East Central Europe are treated by supranational organizations and in international fora. Accordingly, the governments of East Central Europe are very sensitive to their images abroad. We have yet again come full circle: representations about reproduction make politics, not only at home, but on the international stage.

Notes

1 This article is excerpted from S. Gal and G. Kligman, The Politics of Gender after Socialism (Princeton University Press, 2000), and reprinted with the permission of Princeton University Press. It forms part of a broader synthetic analysis of the gendering of postsocialism that we have been developing which grew out of our own research on the politics of reproduction, and that of an international, comparative research project on postsocialist transformation analyzed from a gendered perspective that we co-organized. The results of this comparative study are published in S. Gal and G. Kligman, eds., Reproducing Gender: Politics, Publics, and Everyday Life After Socialism (Princeton University Press, 2000). Project funding was obtained from the Open Society Institute, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

2 This definition relies on the influential work of J. Scott, Gender and the Politics of History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988).

3 See, for example, I. Dölling, D. Hahn, and S. Scholz, “Birth Strike in the New Federal States: Is Sterilization an Act of Resistance?” in Reproducing Gender, eds. Gal and Kligman; M. Ferree and E. Maleck-Levy, “Talking about Women and Wombs: The Discourse of Abortion and Reproductive Rights in the G.D.R. During and After the ‘Wende,’” in Reproducing Gender, eds. Gal and Kligman; M. Fuszara, “Abortion and the Formation of the Public Sphere in Poland”, in Gender Politics and Post- Communism: Reflections from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, eds. N. Funk and M. Mueller (New York: Routledge, 1993), 241-52; S. Gal, “Gender in the Post-Socialist Transition: The Abortion Debate in Hungary”, East European Politics and Societies 8:2 (1994): 256-287; G. Kligman, “The Social Legacy of Communism: Women, Children, and the Feminization of Poverty”, in The Social Legacy of Communism, eds. J. Millar and S. Wolchik (Washington DC: Woodrow Wilson Center and Cambridge Presses, 1994), 252-70; E. Zielińska, “Between Ideology, Politics, and Common Sense: The Discourse of Reproductive Rights in Poland”, in Reproducing Gender, eds. Gal and Kligman.

4 The feminist literature on the public and private spheres is voluminous, with M. Rosaldo, “Woman, Culture and Society: A Theoretical Overview”, in Woman, Culture and Society, eds. M. Rosaldo and L. Lamphere (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1974), 17-42 an influential piece as one of the earliest contributions. In anthropology, a thorough critique of cross-cultural, universalist approaches appeared in J. Collier and S. Yanagisako, Gender and Kinship: Essays toward a Unified Analysis (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987), with related arguments on the nature/culture dichotomy in C. MacCormack and M. Strathem, Nature, Culture and Gender (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990). See M. di Leonardo, ed., introduction to Gender at the Crossroads of Knowledge: Feminist Anthropology in the Postmodern Era (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991) for a critical review. In thinking about this dichotomy, we have also been stimulated by several traditions of feminist work about states, including Z. Eisenstein, Feminism and Sexual Equality (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1984); W. Brown, “Finding the Man in the State”, Feminist Studies 18:1 (1992): 7-34; N. Hartsock, Money, Sex, and Power: Toward a Feminist Historical Materialism (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1984); Carole Pateman, Sexual Contract (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988); L. Gordon, ed. Women, the State, and Welfare (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990); R.W. Connell, “The State, Gender and Sexual Politics”, Theory and Society 19 (1990): 507-544; A. Phillips, Engendering Democracy (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991); K.B. Jones and A.G. Jonasdottir, eds., The Political Interests of Gender: Developing Theory and Research with a Feminist Face (Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1988); A. Sassoon, ed., Women and the State: The Shifting Boundaries between Public and Private (London: Hutchinson 1987); Birte Siim, “Towards a Feminist Rethinking of the Welfare State”, in The Political Interests of Gender, eds. K. Jones and A. Jonasdottir (London: Sage, 1988), 160-186; and the closely related works on forms of patriarchy, such as S. Walby, Theorizing Patriarchy (Oxford, England: Blackwell, 1990). See also N. Fraser, Unruly Practices (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989); and Phillips, Engendering Democracy, for recent critical discussion of related European and American social theories.

5 G. Kligman, “The Politics of Reproduction in Ceauşescu’s Romania”, East European Politics and Societies 6:3 (1992): 364

6 F. Ginsburg and R. Rapp, “The Politics of Reproduction”, Annual Review of Anthropology 20 (1991): 313.

7 G. Kligman, The Politics of Duplicity: Controlling Reproduction in Ceauşescu’s Romania (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 3.

8 F. Ginsburg and R. Rapp, eds. Conceiving the New World Order: The Global Politics of Reproduction (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995),

9 Gal, “Gender in the Post-Socialist Transition”, 258.

10 To study empirically the involvement of states in reproduction, it is necessary to reject any definition of states as reified or personified entities with set social functions and unified goals. “States are always given form through the actions of people” (Kligman, The Politics of Duplicity, 4). The objectification of the state as an entity unto itself masks the active participation of people in “making” the state.

11 Thus, Frederick the Great compared his own backward Prussia with fortunate Holland that, though vastly smaller in extent, had the dense settlement and industrious population that made it a greater European power. This example is from Foucault’s discussion on “Govemmentality” in The Foucault Effect: Studies in Govemmentality, eds. G. Burchell, C. Gordon, and P. Miller (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1991), 87-104. C. Gallagher, “The Body Versus the Social Body in the Works of Thomas Malthus and Henry Mayhew”, in The Making of the Modern Body: Sexuality and Society in the Nineteenth Century, eds. C. Gallagher and T. Laqueur (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 83-106; and L. Jordanova, “Interrogating the Concept of Reproduction in the 18th Century”, in Conceiving the New World Order: The Global Politics of Reproduction, eds. F. Ginsburg and R. Rapp (Berkeley: University of California, 1995), 369-386 provide useful analyses of changing European ideas about population and reproduction into the nineteenth century

12 Cited in Gallagher, “The Body vs. Social Body”, 83.

13 An excellent overview of feminist historiography on family strategies and social reproduction in Europe is B. Laslett and J. Brenner, “Gender and Social Reproduction: Historical Perspectives”, Annual Review of Sociology 15(1989): 381-404; S. Watson, From Provinces into Nations: Demographic Integration in Western Europe 1870-1960 (Princeton: Princeton Press, 1991) is exemplary in exploring the relationship of family strategies about reproduction to increasing state and market integration in Western Europe over the last century and a half.

14 S. Michel and S. Koven, “Womanly Duties: Maternalist Politics and the Origins of the Welfare State in France, Germany, Great Britain and the USA 1880-1920”, American Historical Review 95 (1990): 1076-1108 provides a useful synthesis of velopments in the maternalist feminisms of Western Europe. For a variety of feminist ideologies of reproduction see also G. Bock and P. Thane, eds., Maternity and Gender Policies: Women and the Rise of the European Welfare States, 1880s-1950s, (New York: Routledge, 1991). R. Bridenthal, A. Grossman and M. Kaplan, eds., When Biology Becomes Destiny: Women in Weimar and Nazi Germany (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1989) discuss eugenics, sex reformers, and other social movements in twentieth-century Germany. It is important to note the many nineteenth- and twentieth- century feminist movements that made a much broader politics of morality around their concerns for protecting reproduction and children.

15 In 1997, a Czech couple brought home a Roma child from a children’s institution; however, the child was of Slovak nationality. Although she had been born in the Czech Republic, her birth parents had not applied for permanent residence. The Czech couple, attempting to adopt the child, was soon denied childcare benefits. The social benefits law had changed, and because the child did not have Czech citizenship, this meant the family was ineligible. Moreover, because a foreigner had been incorporated into the family, they lost the benefits for which they had been eligible on behalf of their own biological child. See “Adopting a Child? Don’t Want a Foreigner”, Mlada fronta dnes, 23 October 1997

16 M. Ferree and E. Maleck-Levy, “Talking about Women and Wombs”.

17 For details on the Hungarian abortion debate, see Gal, “Gender in the Post-Socialist Transition”. On the abortion debates in Germany, see also U. Nelles, “Abortion, the Special Case: A Constitutional Perspective”, German Politics and Society 4-5 (Winter 1991-92): 111-121; M. Nimsch, “Abortion as Politics”, German Politics and Society 4-5 (Winter 1991-92): 128-134; H. De Soto, “In the Name of the Folk: Women and Nation in the New Germany”, UCLA Women’s Law Journal 5:1 (1994): 83-101; E. Maleck-Levy, “Between Self-determination and State Supervision: Women and the Abortion Law in Post-unification Germany”, Social Politics 2:1 (1995): 62-76; Ferree and Maleck-Levy, “Talking about Women and Wombs”.

18 For instance, in contrast to Eastern and Western Europe, American battles about abortion have been posed as questions about the bounds of “privacy”, women’s selfdetermination, and images of the sort of female life worth living. See, for example, R. Petchesky, Abortion and Woman’s Choice: The State, Sexuality, and Reproductive Freedom (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1984); F. Ginsburg, Contested Lives: The Abortion Debate in an American Community (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989); K. Luker, Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984). In Western Europe the terms of debate have formed around the responsibilities of the stale to women [see M. Glendon, Abortion and Divorce in Western Law (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987)] and in China around the meanings of modernity [see A. Anagnost, “A Surfeit of Bodies: Population and the Rationality of the State in Post-Mao China”, in Conceiving the New World Order: The Global Politics of Reproduction, eds. F. Ginsburg and R. Rapp (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 22-41)].

19 See, for example, J. Sztaniszkis, The Dynamics of Breakthrough in Eastern Europe: The Polish Experience (Berkeley: University of California, 1991); K. Verdery, What was Socialism, and What Comes Next? (Princeton: Princeton University Press, The arguments in the preceding paragraphs are indirectly supported by the recent work of J. Linz and A. Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), who make the point that “statehood” cannot be taken for granted, in fact must be constructed, in situations of “transition”. There are bound to be arguments about who “belongs”. Furthermore, creating an appearance of morality for the state gains importance in light of the empirical evidence that markets and economic arrangements themselves do not legitimate democratic systems; if anything the sequence appears to be the other way around.

20 Zielińska, “Between Ideology, Politics, and Common Sense”.

21 Dölling, et. al, “Birth Strike”.

22 Zielińska, “Between Ideology, Politics, and Common Sense”.

23 Petchesky, Abortion and Woman’s Choice, and Z. Eisenstein, The Radical Future of Liberal Feminism (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1993), among others have discussed the contradictions of liberal states on the issue of reproductive rights.

24 M. Fuszara, “New Gender Relations in Poland in the 1990s”, in Reproducing Gender: Politics, Publics, and Everyday Life after Socialism, eds. Gal and Kligman

25 K. Daskalova, “Women’s Problems, Women’s Discourses in Bulgaria”, in Reproducing Gender, eds. Gal and Kligman; D. Kostova, “Similar or Different? Women in Post-Communist Bulgaria”, in Women in the Politics of Post-Communist Eastern Europe, ed. M. Rueschemeyer (Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 1998), 249-66; L. Grunberg, “Women’s NGOs in Romania”, in Reproducing Gender, eds. Gal and Kligman; M.E. Fischer and D. Harsanyi, “From Tradition and Ideology to Elections and Competition: The Changing Status of Women in Romanian Politics”, in Women in the Politics of Post-Communist Eastern Europe, ed. M. Rueschemeyer, 201-24; see also M. Rueschemeyer, ed., Women in the Politics of Post-Communist Eastern Europe

26 Silva Mežnarić, “Populacionizam I Demokracija: Hrvatska Nakon Osamostaljenja”, Erasmus 19 (1997): 58-63; Silva Mežnarić, “Populacija, nacija, broj: demogracija: politika etnosa u modernoj Europi”, Revija za sociologiju XXVIII: 1-2 (1997): 1-18

27 The feminist literature on nation and gender covers most contemporary nation-states. The collection by N. Yuval-Davis and F. Anthias, Woman-Nation-State (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989), and their introduction to it were important early contributions; more recently, special issues of Gender and History [see C. Hall, J. Lewis, K. McClelland and J. Rendall, eds., “Gender, Nationalisms and National Identities”, special issue of Gender and History 5:2 (1993)] and a special issue of Feminist Review [A. Whitehead, C. Connolly, E. Carter, and H. Crowley, eds., “Nationalism and National Identities”, Special Issue of Feminist Studies 44 (1993): 1-111], have further explored these issues. Not all the contributors distinguish clearly between nation and state. Verdery, What was Socialism, discusses gender and nationalism in Eastern Europe, as do many of the articles in the collections by S. Rai, H. Pilkington, and A. Phizacklea, eds., Women in the Face of Change: The Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and China (London: Routledge, 1992); Funk and Mueller, eds., Gender Politics and Post-Communism; T. Renne, ed., Ana’s Land: Sisterhood in Eastern Europe (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1997). While most of these studies are about gender in general, G. Heng and J. Devan, “State Fatherhood: The Politics of Nationalism, Sexuality and Race in Singapore”, in Nationalisms and Sexualities, eds. A. Parker, M. Russo, D. Sommer, and P. Yaeger (New York: Routledge, 1992), 343-64, has particular relevance for our discussion of reproduction. Also see Kligman, “The Social Legacy of Communism”.

28 See B. Denitch, “Sex and Power in the Balkans”, in Woman, Culture and Society, eds. Rosaldo and Lamphere, 243-262.

29 In Croatia, five women who criticized Tudjman’s policies were labeled “witches” (see, for example, V. Kesić, “Confessions of a ‘Yugo-Nostalgic’ Witch”, in Ana’s Land, ed. Renne, 195-200). In Belgrade, the Women in Black starkly and silently protested the war and Milošević government.

30 G. Kligman, “Women and the Negotiation of Identity in Post-Communist Eastern Europe”, in Identities in Transition: Eastern Europe and Russia after the Collapse of Communism, ed. V. Bonnell (Berkeley: International and Area Studies, 1996), 68-91; A. Stiglymayer, ed., Mass Rape: The War Against Women in Bosnia-Hercegovina (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994); J. Mostov, ‘“Our Women/Their Women’: Symbolic Boundaries, Territorial Markers, and Violence in the Balkans”, in Women in a Violent World: Feminist Analyses and Resistance Across Europe, ed. C. Corrin (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996), 515-29.

31 This also hides a further embarrassment. Part of the reason for population decline in Croatia, Poland, Slovakia and other states is that members of those nations would rather migrate out, presumably for the sake of higher standards of living, than stay to “be” the nation. See Mežnarić, “Populacija, nacija, broj”.

32 Zielińska, “Between Ideology, Politics, and Common Sense”.

33 Kligman, The Politics of Duplicity.

34 Zielińska, “Between Ideology, Politics, and Common Sense”.

35 Dölling, et al., “Birth Strike in the New Federal States”.

36 Zielińska, “Between Ideology, Politics, and Common Sense”; Kligman, The Politics of Duplicity.

37 A. Baban, “Women’s Sexuality and Reproductive Behavior in Post-Ceauşescu Romania: A Psychological Approach”, in Reproducing Gender, eds. Gal and Kligman

Auteurs

Gail Kligman is professor of sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Susan Gal is professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago.

© Central European University Press, 2000

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540