Monday, July 25, 2011

Population Control in India

Along with my research on families here in North India, I have been looking at the dichotomy of continuing families through IVF and stopping reproduction through Population Control. There has long been a sense in India that it is overpopulated. This belief is shared by the majority of the public. I always make it a point to ask everyone I speak with how they feel about the population in India. In many instances people bring this up in conversation without me even asking and without fail they always tell me that India has too many people and its not good. Recently I was shocked to hear health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad's solution to population problems. He said that India should improve late-night programming so that people watch TV instead of having sex. “If there are good late-night shows, people will watch TV till late at night. They won’t get a chance to have children. With no good programmes and no electricity in many villages, what are people to do?” he said. There has also been talk about imposing the one child law that China is under but we have yet to see that happen. Other population control ideas include marrying after the age of 30 and using “aggressive compulsion and not forced sterilisation” to convince people to have fewer children. They have also  increased the number of family planning programs here in Northern India.

I have found that many of our parents generation come from households where they had numerous siblings. Today most families have shrunk to one or two children. There is this ideal that if one has children, they should be able to provide for them, and provide well. I also just recently discovered that in India it is taboo to not have children at all, but it is also taboo to have too many children. After inquiring into this idea futher I discovered that the reason people look down on having a lot of children is because they feel that it is a sign that you are struggling to provide. The more children you have, the more helping hands you have to contribute to family funds. It is a symbol of status.

India supports 17.2 per cent of the world’s population on 2.4 per cent of the world’s land. Through my interviews I have found that many of the people see population as what is causing the poverty and disparity in wealth as well as unavailability of jobs. However after speaking with a professor here in Delhi who has been researching population, she informed me that there is really no validaty to these speculations. On the contrary, This notion grew out of the 19th century scarcity of food. In fact, India's population grew slower during the 19th century than Europe. We cannot blame the population size for the scarcity. Today India's economy is flourishing and there is no food shortage, yet this concept of overpopulation still exists and is widely accepted. She also indicated that this notion of cretailing childbirth is taking effect all over the country as we see family sizes dramatically shrinking. Who's to say that China's one child policy has affected their economy in a good way. I find it interesting that we see this idea of overpopulation continuing to persist in the forefront of people's minds. Why do they find the solution to all their problems in shrinking family units?

Perceptions of Public and Private Space

This entry was inspired by something that Megan said about why is it the case that in India it is innappropriate to kiss in public but it is fine to pass gas, or burp. My answer to this question is that India has a different way of interpreting public and private space. It is important to recognize that in our American culture there are definite distinctions  made in what is proper public space behaviors and what is proper behavior in private space. This is the same for materials. Mary Douglas' theory of pollution is an interesting one to consider at this juncture. She makes the point that dirt is only classified as being dirty when it is matter out of place. In other words when there
is dirt on a freshly cleaned floor then it is considered dirty. However, the dirt in the garden is not seen in the same light. It is considered soil because it is in its right and useful place. When it is out of order, it creates conflict. This is interesting to consider when it comes to the cross-cultural perspectives. When I told many of my friends back home in the US that I was going to India, their response was intriguing. My boss immediately replied that, “India is a dirty filthy country. I would never want to visit that place.” Several other friends mentioned similar concerns that India was dirty, corrupted, and the people smelled bad. In our foreign perspective we see a country that is dirty because to us, matter is out of place to where we think it should be. That's is when we start feeling conflicted and get hostile with our cutlure shock. We think that people should not go to the bathroom in the open where everyone can see them. This is “dirty” because they are not going in what we designate as an appropriate 'private' place. The sewage system should be underground hidden from view, not in the open where we can smell and see it. Again we interpret that as matter out of place. The trash everywhere on the streets should be in a waste basket or sack of some kind. This should be put in its proper place that is separate from what is clean. Conversely, India looks at America and feels we should not be displaying so much public affection, that should be done in a private sphere. Our understanding and perceptions of what is approriate in private and public differ. India has adapted to its resources, population, and values. These men going to the bathroom in the fields (public) really have no where else to go. There are no public bathrooms nearby and even if there were I wouldn't blame them for going in the field (have ya seen those bathrooms). They have adapted to their environment. Outsiders frequently getting involved in conversations is another example of publicly acceptable space. I was shocked to find in gynecology offices where I interviewed that there were two doctors with two separate patients at one desk. There was no privacy with what they were discussing with patients. What we feel should be private has had to adapt here because of the limited space and amount of people. The man bathing in the gutter of the street did so because that is what he must do for survival with his limited resources. The trash on the sides of street is not perceived as being matter out of place to many of the people. There are no other places to put it so its in its proper place which is the gutter. When I spoke with some Hindu friends about how in America most cows and dogs are penned in or tied up, they had a look of horror cross their faces. "This is not good," one exclaimed, "they should be free to roam where they please." Cows being in public space is appropriate from the Indian perspective. Understanding and interpreting space is so fascinating to me especially in the India context. Maybe more Americans should start farting in public and kissing in private :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Understanding Indian Families

 I've spent the past month and a half living with a host family in a suburb of Delhi called Noida. The couple that I live with have a son living in the US as do many other Indian families here. It seems that most in this area have at least one child living abroad. My host family have always lived in a joint-family unit. The husband's parents lived with them for twenty years until they both passed away in 1994. Shortly thereafter the wife's mother moved in with them. We call her Nanima. She is now 87 years old and is constantly trying to get me to eat more food. I'm discovering that much of Indian life revolves around their family and close friends.
My family falls withing the healthy middle class society as do most of their friends and associates. They live well and comfortably with all of their needs taken care of. They also have a number of servants that help make life more comfortable. My host dad says that if you have a little money then you can live like King's in India. They talk to their son and his wife daily. They always tell me what a good boy their son is. He has done everything that his parents wish. They disciplined him well and he is very obedient. He went abroad to get educated and now has his PhD. He also married the girl of their choice.
Through a number of interviews I conducted with a variety of people, I've been gettings similar messages about Indian families. Having at least one child is necessary because it completes the family unit and draws the marriage closer together. The bond is strengthened through children. One woman explained to me that this is the Asian culture, family is extremely important. I've also heard many parents talk about how important education is. When their children excell then they are proud. The children generally live with their parents until marriage. This way the parents are able to keep control and monitor their children's lives. Many of my younger Indian friends tell me that they wish sometimes they could have the independence of living on their own. My host mom has even commented to me that her mother still tries to control her and tell her what to do. Now I'm understanding what its like to live under that control. Its definitely an adjustment after having lived independantly for so long.
I've been exploring this idea of overpopulation here. Every single person I've asked has told me they feel that India is definitely overpopulated. One man said, "India would be a much different place if we did not have so many people." The facts are that the more educated people are having smaller families, maybe one to two children at most. There have also been movements to invoke the chinese law of only allowing one child per couple, though who knows if that will ever take. So there are beliefs and measures being taken to cretail childbirth. Yet there still exists a stigma that is attached to those who have no children. Those that are infertile. It is at this juncture that my research is focusing. Infertility here in Delhi is fascinating. There seems to be more stigma in rural villages. However, I am discovering that in this city, there is real fear of stigma. Though it may not in reality exist, the fear is strong. For the most part women keep their infertility treatments secret for fear of judgment of others.  

Friday, February 11, 2011

Method's Practice 2

Methods Practice 2

I feel like interviewing is going to be very valuable to my project so I wanted to do another interview to get more practice. Also there was some sensitive subject matter that came up in this interview, which I felt like really helped prepare me for future situations.

This person is a recent acquaintance, who is from Israel.

I asked him to tell me a little bit about where he was from and what it was like to grow up there:
He said that he grew up in a Mediterranean town. Jerusalem is a Middle Eastern place. The part of Israel that borders the Mediterranean is very different. The way people think and behave is very different to that of people from Jerusalem.
He explained that body language is a big deal in the Middle East. His knees were facing me, which he indicated means that he's into the conversation. If they were facing the other direction that means that he is not into the conversation.

How do people dress in Israel?
He personally didn't really care about the latest fashion. Contrary to popular opinion, he hates wearing sandals and enjoys wearing comfortable tennis shoes. There's also a vast range of apparel. There are a lot of orthodox Jews who wear traditional clothing. Those people living closer to the sea, wore more modern trends.
What is life like for Women in Israel?
Women in Israel are very independent. More independent than women here in America. They work the same as the men do.

Why are the women there more independent?
Could be because of their service in the military for 18 months.

How was your experience in the Military?
He refused to talk about his own personal service in the military, because he felt that people made rash judgments about him and treated him differently. He said that it was wiser to not tell people about his experience there.

Midway through our interview, a friend of mine walked by. I introduced them and referred to the interviewee as “my friend from Israel”. He got a little upset with me for doing that. He said that he would much prefer to be introduced as my friend rather than my friend from Israel. He said that he wants to blend in rather than to stick out. What I did was rude in a sense, which was a very good thing for me to learn so that I don't make that mistake again!

What are some do's and don'ts in Israeli culture?
Because I have blonde hair he explained that I would have to be very careful in the way I communicated with males especially. Blonde hair is a novelty in the Middle East. People would treat you differently and you can't expect them not to. You also can't expect them to change their behavior because you would be in their back yard.
You also should not be even remotely flirtatious with men there. It's very different than it is here in Utah. People here go on multiple dates a week! People don't really do that in Israel. Dating is merely getting physical and they interpret the desire to be physical through flirting. He then explained a situation of having some friends come visit from the United States. They did not understand this principle and it got them into some trouble with the natives. He said that it was very frustrating to him because he had to put out the fires.
If you are visiting certain parts of Israel, you must dressed very very modestly because it is rude if you do not.

What are some of the cultural differences you've had a hard time adjusting to?
Dating is very hard here. It is more competitive than anything I've ever experienced.
It's been an interesting adjustment to the LDS culture here in Utah. I've lived in the Eastern United States and that wasn't so hard because there was a lot of diversity. However, here there I stick out a lot more and I don't like it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Learning Journal "Cultural Value Orientations"

I do agree with the author that it is important to understand the cultural values. Furthermore, it is important to retain where you're coming from so there can be a valid comparison with the culture. That is how we learn is through comparison. It is important that as we're doing field work that we don't try to force our opinions or values on these individuals we're studying. I can see that this is important for my own field work, because I will be dealing with sensitive issues that many people have strong opinions on.

Annotated sources

J. Strickler and N. Danigelis. "Changing Frameworks in Attitudes toward Abortion."  Sociological Forum, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Jun., 2002), pp. 187-201. This article discusses the shift in attitudes being more pro life than pro choice. The article also takes in certain changes in religious perspective, which I find interesting and have been considering incorporating into my own project.

J. Evans. "." Sociological Forum, Vol. 17, No. 3 (Sep., 2002), pp. 397-422. This article also talks about how attitudes towards abortion are being separated into two distinct groups. There aren't a lot of fence sitters anymore. It seems that religions are being somewhat forced to have an opinion on this topic now. This article again peaks my interest because it includes religious opinions.
B. Highton. "Policy Voting in Senate Elections: The Case of Abortion." Political Behavior, Vol. 26, No. 2 (Jun., 2004), pp. 181-200. I think this article is important to my study because it points out certain discrepancies with voting about abortion. It is not always just based on the issue but rather a cluster of policy's and therefore accuracy is lost. The politics behind abortion is also immensely important in my study. Its important to know that there are discrepancies with the voting.
T. Murphy. "." Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Jun., 1985), pp. 79-83. I liked how insightful this article was. I also liked how the author included ideas of moral obligation. I feel like many people skirt around that issue because it is so hard to define. However I do feel it is important to address the moral aspect of abortion. Also it may be important for my research to understand what spontaneous abortions is, lest I come across it. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Annotated Sources

G. Pennings “Reproductive Tourism as Moral Pluralism in Motion." This article talks about people who go abroad to other countries where abortion, and in vitro fertilisation are legal to have these procedures done. Certain countries have out-lawed certain practices and it is an interesting idea that many are going to places where it is legal. I think this article could be useful to my study because its important to consider what it means to outlaw abortion or legalize it and what kind of repercussions that can have.

M. Inhorn “He Won't Be My Son.” This article is specifically about invitro fertilisation happening in the Middle East. It is, for the most part a practice that is shunned by Islam because they believe that if a child is not biologically yours then it is a bastard child. They even have issues with adoption. I thought this article might be useful, as I've been toying with the idea of changing my focus from adoption to invitro.

E. Roberts “The Ethics of Cryopreservation in Ecuador and Elsewhere.” This article discusses how embryos are frozen for periods of time for certain families who want to have children. There are several pictures of children who were products of cryopreservation. The ethical dillemas introduced by this are interesting. All the embryos that aren't used are thrown away. Also when the embryos are impanted, doctors often go in and kill several of them, which is called a reduction. The question comes in as to what qualifies for an abortion. This question is an important one for my own case study.

B. Prainsack “Negotiating Life: The Regulation of Human Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cell Research in Israel.” Israel has cornered the market on stem cell research. They take the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth very seriously, even by cloning. I felt like this article is very important to my own study because they examine the culture and the religious beliefs of Israel and how those play in to the question why they feel so strongly about stem cell research. Also there are many ethical questions surrounding stem cell research and whether or not it could be considered along the lines of abortion.