Between Fact and Fiction: Can There be a Postcolonial Feminist Ethnography?

Published In

Women’s Studies International Forum

Document Type


Publication Date



Gender, Ethnography, Cultural studies, International development, Postcolonialism, Birth control, Feminist anthropology, South Asia, India


This study advocates for feminist qualitative methodologies that focus on stories when studying topics that impact women's well-being and the knowledge produced about them. In specific, population control and family planning mark a defining moment in global politics and international development as this issue has become a struggle about who has a right to live, indeed, a right to inherit the earth. In no other time period have we had to be as vigilant about legal and policy documents placing women's reproductive rights in jeopardy. Since the postcolonial period, female reproduction has been adjudicated by male administrators of Western Governments and Foundations promoting modern-western modernity and neoliberalism. Population policies have been part of national security policy (in the US since 1970s) and define North-South relations, just as other concerns such as immigration, refugees, food sustainability and war. The study aims at reinstating subaltern women's voices as central to international development and planning discourse by presenting ways that personal narrative can circumvent the demands of objectivity in functionalist research paradigms. By calling women's tales fictional, I give the interviewing women the status of storytellers; a position of power imparted to women traditionally. Stories of women's lives recorded in 1992–95 are literary and imaginative constructions and not false as such, serving to reposition women's role in international development. Their words give analysis, life, and historical authenticity to the transnational women's movement in reproductive health.


© 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.



Persistent Identifier