Date of Award

1-1-2009

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Ann Kingsolver

Abstract

Sri Lanka has been considered one of the most successful countries in the developing world in terms of population control. National data show that approximately 19% of married women in Sri Lanka have chosen sterilization. Government data, however, indicates the highest rate of female sterilization exists in the estate sector, which is predominantly inhabited by the ethnic minority Up-country Tamils. My research focuses on why women in the estate sector have the highest rate of participation in the family planning program in comparison with women in the rest of the country. My thesis also addresses how the agency of the Up-country Tamil women, with regard to reproductive choice, is restrained by multiple factors. This study explores the relationship between socio-economic and political factors and the reproductive choices of the Tamil women workers in Sri Lanka. Based on my fieldwork in the summer of 2007, I examine how larger social forces such as poverty, racism, war, unequal access to health care resources, literacy, and the plantation system in Sri Lanka, have influenced ethnic minority Up-country Tamil women workers to choose sterilization as the primary birth control method. Using sterilization narratives of the Up-country Tamil plantation female workers in Sri Lanka, I argue that the individual agency of women with regards to reproductive choice needs to be understood as a more dynamic interactive relationship with social structure instead of looking at agency as independent from external influence.

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