Utpal Niranjan Sandesara

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

California, Los Angeles, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10182

Approve Date

October 7, 2021

Project Title

Sandesara, Utpal (California, Los Angeles, U. of) "She Is Not Ours: Sex Selection and the Ambivalence of Care in Western India"

Since the 1980s, selective abortion of female fetuses has become a disturbingly routine form of family planning in India. Based on 18 months of fieldwork in Gujarat state, “She Is Not Ours” analyzes the lived experiences of families pursuing sex selection, practitioners providing it, and government officials combating it. Building on anthropologies of medicine, morality, gender-kinship, and governance, the book maintains that both sex selection and efforts against it should be understood as ambivalent forms of care – more specifically, “devitalizing care,” in which one’s provision for another’s needs constitutively entails disregarding or diminishing the life of a third. The theme of devitalizing care animates three interrelated arguments: first, that “the female fetus” represents not a singular thing, but a collection of competing meanings and values best characterized as a “human becoming”; second, that sex selection should be seen not just as gendered violence, but also as tragic pragmatism in response to irreconcilable conflicts between moral goods; and third, that efforts against sex selection exemplify how the governance of life often rests on narration in a mode of “biopolitical melodrama.” Examining sex selection and anti-sex selection across clinical, household, and governance domains, “She Is Not Ours” takes the threatened daughter as a starting point for exploring the potentiality of personhood, the narrativity of biopower, and the ambivalence of care.