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Making Modern Mothers

Making Modern Mothers: Ethics and Family Planning in Urban Greece

Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 351
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  • Book Info
    Making Modern Mothers
    Book Description:

    In Greece, women speak of mothering as "within the nature" of a woman. But this durable association of motherhood with femininity exists in tension with the highest incidence of abortion and one of the lowest fertility rates in Europe. In this setting, how do women think of themselves as proper individuals, mothers, and Greek citizens? In this anthropological study of reproductive politics and ethics in Athens, Greece, Heather Paxson tracks the effects of increasing consumerism and imported biomedical family planning methods, showing how women's "nature" is being transformed to meet crosscutting claims of the contemporary world. Locating profound ambivalence in people's ethical evaluations of gender and fertility control, Paxson offers a far-reaching analysis of conflicting assumptions about what it takes to be a good mother and a good woman in modern Greece, where assertions of cultural tradition unfold against a backdrop of European Union integration, economic struggle, and national demographic anxiety over a falling birth rate.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93713-0
    Subjects: 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-xii)
  5. A Note on Transliteration
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Prologue: VARNAVA SQUARE
    (pp. xv-xvi)

    Varnava Square is tucked into the narrow streets folded behind the Panathenaic stadium, which was carved out of white marble to host the first modern olympiad in 1896. Surrounding a cement fountain at its center, the square is lined with trees and wooden benches facing the automobile, bus, and moped traffic circulating perilously a few feet away. For more than two years in the middle 1990s, I lived a block and a half up the hill from here, in the residential area of Pangrati, which flanks the northeast side of the city’s largest cemetery. A snack shop, a recently upscaled...

  7. 1 Realizing Nature
    (pp. 1-37)

    Phoebe and I were sitting in the shade of a patio umbrella in the courtyard of the Athens school where she worked as an administrative assistant. Carefully sipping her iced coffee so as not to spill it on her immaculate linen blouse, Phoebe said to me:

    I believe that with having a child comes as well the fulfillment of the woman. You are completed as a woman. Now, to tell the truth, beyond all these things—you know, with the feminist movements and all that—you can’t change your nature. The nature of a woman is to have children. We...

  8. 2 Remaking Mothers: From an Ethic of Service to an Ethic of Choice
    (pp. 38-101)

    The wordteknopiía—fromtékno(child, offspring) and the verb stempió(to make or do) can be rendered in English as “the making of children.” Its sense is semantic, generalizing the specific action of “to have a child,”káno pedhí,to a cultural abstraction. When Greeks talk aboutteknopiía,they refer to socially appropriate contexts and strategies for bringing a child into the world and, at the same time, comment on how having children (or not) affects one’s life, one’s relationships, and one’s sense of self.Teknopiíaunfolds in an ethical context, one that embraces and shapes gender as...

  9. 3 Rationalizing Sex: Family Planning and an Ethic of Well-Being
    (pp. 102-159)

    Family planning, as an institution and philosophy, first came to Greece in 1976 by way of a private center established by a British-trained gynecologist and a group of concerned housewives. Family planning—here signifying the calculated use of contraceptives—is forwarded in Greece as an emergent and liberating practice, a clear alternative to traditional strategies for birth control reliant on restrictions governing sexual activity and backed by abortion. Consistent with the ethic of choice, the first principle of family planning considers it a human right that people be able to choose the number of children they want and when they...

  10. 4 Maternal Citizens: Demographics, Pronatalism, and Population Policy
    (pp. 160-211)

    During my time in Athens, I heard all sorts of people exclaim over the immediate certainty that “Greece is getting smaller.” An elderly lady once lectured me sternly about “people these days not having children anymore” as she clutched my arm for support while darting through stalled traffic on Vasilissis Sofias Avenue. A surprising number of Athenians can quote the country’s fertility index: 1.4 children per woman of reproductive age while I was in Greece (dropping to 1.28 by 1999; see Council of Europe 2001). Everyone has a theory. As noted earlier, popular explanation pins blame on the pollution-filled haze...

  11. 5 Technologies of Greek Motherhood
    (pp. 212-254)

    InAfter Nature(1992a), Marilyn Strathern contends that over the past few decades “the English” have been pressed into reconsidering their previously taken-for-granted views on how nature and culture relate to one another. Until recently, she argues, the English, and Euro-Americans more generally, have regarded the domain of Nature as a resource for the production of Culture and as a constraining model for human endeavor.¹ In regarding their cultural projects as both built on and imitating nature, modern Euro-Americans have taken “after nature.” Today, however, when consumers gladly part with extra money to acquire specially grown organic produce, when researchers...

  12. APPENDIX 1: Total Fertility Rates, European Union Countries, 1960–2000
    (pp. 255-255)
  13. APPENDIX 2: Legislation of the Greek State Pertaining to Gender Equality, Marriage, Family, and Reproduction
    (pp. 256-260)
  14. APPENDIX 3: Birthrates, Greece, 1934–1999
    (pp. 261-262)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 263-292)
  16. References
    (pp. 293-320)
  17. Index
    (pp. 321-335)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 336-336)