Briggs, Laura

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Professor and Chair, Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
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Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
US and Latin America
US women's history
gender and science
politics of reproduction
studies of U.S. empire

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Now showing 1 - 4 of 4
  • Publication
    Pushing in Silence: Modernizing Puerto Rico and the Medicalization of Childbirth by Isabel M. Córdova (review)
    (2018-01-01) Briggs, Laura
    Pushing in Silence came out at a complicated time. With an estimated three thousand deaths from Hurricane María and a highly publicized fight about how to fund Medicaid in Puerto Rico, how do we read a book about how modernization drove women on the island to give birth in hospitals—except as tragedy? It’s possible that the answer is, in part, that it is more important than ever to restore a sense of the island as a complex place with a rich history—as much more than a disaster. This book certainly gives us that.
  • Publication
    (2016-01-01) Briggs, Laura
    The scholarship of transnational feminisms is organized by arguments about even its most basic terms and ethical orientation. Some scholars write that it is an exciting, positive intervention that replaces a hackneyed and unsustainable notion of international female sameness as “global sisterhood” (i.e., Morgan 1984), restores socialist feminism to its rightful place in feminist thought, re-centers US Third World feminism and internationalist solidarity for decolonization, and draws attention to the often brilliant activism of feminists in the global South focused on issues like food justice and water (Mohanty 1984; Grewal and Kaplan 1994; Kaplan and Grewal 1994; Basu 1995; Das Gupta 2006; Swarr and Nagar 2010; Blackwell 2014). Others mistrust it on opposite grounds: it is liberal, Western, white, and through nongovernmental organization (NGOs), private foundations, and even explicit alliance, linked to international organizations (IGOs) such as the World Bank, to globalizing capital, and imperial militaries (Spivak 1996; Alvarez 2000; Fernandes 2013). These two positions, although sometimes opposed to each other, might also both be true: global capitalism and imperial ambition could be the conditions of possibility for transnational feminisms, from below or even alongside (Naples 2002).
  • Publication
    Biopolitics of Adoption
    (2013-01-01) Briggs, Laura
    From the 1930s through the 1970s, first eugenics and then the Cold War made “overpopulation” a key word in defining the nature and cause of “Third World” poverty, as well as what the form of its solution—development—would be. Defining fertility as the problem simultaneously decentered blame—it was not colonialism or extractive world economic systems that cause poverty in the Global South—and provided a very specific cause and site of intervention: irresponsible, careless mothers and their excessive children. We know this story well; many feminist scholars and activists have made the argument that this discourse, imagined in relationship to the social science unit of the national population, was crucial to the elaboration of twentieth-century biopolitical regimes of post/neo/colonial governance.
  • Publication
    La economía política de la adopción: La neoliberalización del bienestar infantil / Political economy of adoption: Neoliberalization of child welfare
    (2012-01-01) Briggs, Laura
    Guatemala, unlike most Latin American nations in the decades from 1990-2010, saw its rate of transnational adoptions of children rise. This article suggests that the usual explanation for this phenomenon –that thousands of children were displaced by the war, and that the country has no domestic “culture of adoption”– is inaccurate. On the contrary, it argues, transnational adoption from Guatemala began its ignominious history in kidnappings by militaries and paramilities during the 40-year civil war. Most of those children were adopted within the country (showing that Guatemalans do adopt, given the chance), but some were adopted in the U.S. and Europe. The victory by neoliberal forces in the war is mirrored in what happened to adoption: despite decades of efforts at reform, adoption became a very lucrative business for judges, social workers, lawyers, and others. The success of recent efforts to slow or halt transnational adoption from Guatemala will depend on whether those who profited from it find the indirect benefits of an improved “human rights record” to be worthwhile.