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Infanticide and a Reverse Fertility Transition in Japan, 1790-1920

Fabian Drixler- Associate Professor, Department of History, Yale
Around 1790, Eastern Japan's culture of responsible parenting came under attack amid a deepening depopulation crisis. Previously, many of its inhabitants believed that they had to choose which children to raise and which to discard at birth, and infanticides were so frequent (about 40% of all births) that every generation was smaller than the one that went before it. The fight against infanticide, motivated in no small part by this depopulation, became a central concern of the public conversation, and had many successes to celebrate. The number of children, for one, increased from about three per woman in the 18th century to about six in 1920. In this talk, I will outline the contours of this reverse fertility transition and discuss the changing metaphors and images, political concerns and understandings of the world that made infanticide normal and normative in one century, and a dehumanizing crime in another. I would also be delighted to think with you about whether this journey from low fertility to high matters for how we view demographic change in other societies, past, present, and future.



Monday, October 6, 2014. 04:15PM


Lathrop East Asia Library, Room 224


Center for East Asian Studies




Free and Open to the Public; Please RSVP here.