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Better Britons

Better Britons: Reproduction, Nation, and the Afterlife of Empire

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 336
  • Book Info
    Better Britons
    Book Description:

    Better Britonscharts an innovative approach to the politics of reproduction by reading an array of works and discourses that reflect on the significance of reproductive behaviours for civic, national, and racial identities.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6706-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-32)

    In 2005,and what remains, a dystopian drama by the Māori/Cook Islands writer Miria George, opened to acclaim and controversy at the City Gallery in Wellington. In George’s play, five New Zealanders gather in the international departures lounge at Wellington Airport: Ila, a jet-setting executive of South Asian descent; Pasifika graphic designer Solomon, bound on his first Overseas Experience; Anna, a Malaysian-born airport cleaner; a Māori woman named Mary; and Peter, her Pākehā (that is to say, white) partner.¹ The year is 2010. Citing high rates of teenage pregnancy and child abuse, the state is threatening to sterilize all Māori...

  6. Part One: Beginnings

    • Chapter One An Island Solution: Utopian Forms and the Routing of National Identity
      (pp. 35-68)

      In 1932, Aldous Huxley published his fifth novel,Brave New World. A dystopian fiction,Brave New Worldspeculates about the consequences of a revolution in reproduction, depicting a future in which humans no longer reproduce but are rather produced to specification in laboratories, like cars on a factory assembly line. A year later, the Australian federal government circulated a memorandum outlining “Government Policy with regard to Aboriginals in [Australia’s] Northern Territory.”¹ The document evinces the state’s commitment to regulating most aspects of the day-to-day lives of Northern Territory Aboriginals, but shows it especially keen to intervene in their sexual, reproductive,...

    • Chapter Two Whiteness for Beginners: An Australian Experiment
      (pp. 69-110)

      It is difficult to make sense of “breeding out the colour,” and not just because the policy was eliminationist in rhetoric and intent.¹ Most of the eugenicist programs implemented globally took a negative approach to improving racial health, restricting immigration, sterilizing the “feeble-minded,” and promoting abortion (for some), all in the name of national fitness. To be sure, eugenicists came to play an important role in the development of marriage and family counselling services during the middle decades of the twentieth century.² Still, as an attempt to avert catastrophic reproductive outcomes by orchestrating desirable ones, “breeding out the colour” stands...

  7. Part Two: Endings

    • Chapter Three “I kept on dreaming about the sea”: Foreclosure and the Aborting Woman
      (pp. 113-145)

      All of the projects examined in previous chapters, from Moreau’s experiments in vivisection to “breeding out the colour,” bear especially heavily upon women as embodied subjects who do much of, and are identified with, the labour of reproduction. InPrelude to Christopher, Linda Hamlin Hendon is the hinge on which Nigel’s eugenicist plot turns and comes undone. What renders Linda’s possible madness terrifying is her reproductive autonomy, forcefully demonstrated when, wanting a baby and refused one by Nigel, she seduces his friend, the painter d’Aubert, and becomes pregnant anyway. In the pregnant female body, the reproductive process in all its...

    • Chapter Four Apprehending Loss: Maternity at the Margins
      (pp. 146-167)

      InThree Guineas(1938), Virginia Woolf ponders a question that, she drily supposes, no “educated man” has ever before asked a woman: “How in your opinion are we to prevent war?”¹ In the main text of the essay, Woolf develops a gendered critique of militarism, linking women’s education and professionalization with the pacifist cause whose importunities provide the occasion for the essay. In her copious notes, however, she proposes a more succinct solution to the problem of war. Having ruefully concluded that “we [women] have no weapons with which to enforce our will,” Woolf appends a footnote:

      There is of...

    • Chapter Five Shrunk in the (White)wash: Britain at World’s End
      (pp. 168-202)

      With the Second World War, this study seems to reach a natural stopping point. Cecil Cook was removed from office in 1939; A.O. Neville retired in 1940. Thereafter, absorption disappeared as an explicit aim of Australian Aboriginal policy. The Inter-Departmental Committee on Abortion filed its report in 1939, recommending against any liberalization of the law on abortion. The outbreak of war temporarily stifled further debate about the relationship between femininity, maternity, and citizenship. The Abortion Law Reform Association continued to press for the liberalization of British abortion law, but as Stephen Brooke notes, “it did not regain momentum until the...

    • Envoi
      (pp. 203-214)

      I openedBetter Britonswith a discussion of Miria George’sand what remains, a play set in the international departures lounge at Wellington Airport. Concluding chapters like this one are likewise sites of departure, in which authors take leave of readers while leaving something behind, some insight that marks a departure, or at least offers hope for a departure, from tired habits of thought and the energy-sapping clutch of histories that just won’t let go. Resurfacing periodically to highlight this or that threat to the body politic, demographic panics and dramas of invasion can seem themselves rather like zombies, atavistic...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 215-266)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 267-300)
  10. Index
    (pp. 301-324)