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Scarlet Speakers from the Heart of New Brunswick:  

Where There is No Abortion: Lessons from the History of Niger 

Barbara Cooper, Professor, History

Please join us virtually on December 1, 2022, 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm. 


Barbara Cooper

Barbara Cooper is a professor in the Department of History and currently serves as the Associate Dean for Interdisciplinary Programs in the School of Arts and Sciences. Her undergraduate and graduate training ranges from the “great books” of the Western tradition to the languages and cultures of Africa, with detours into experiential learning and art school. Her doctoral work at the African Studies Center of Boston University exposed her to the Hausa language, the political economy of agriculture, and the anthropology of gender. Professor Cooper’s research draws upon both oral and archival sources to reconstruct the social and cultural history of West Africa. Her focus is on the former French colonies of the Sahel, particularly Niger, where she has conducted fieldwork for thirty years. She is the author of three books and numerous articles and chapters on the history of Niger and the Sahel.

How do women in Niger experience reproductive concerns differently from women in the United States or Europe? Barbara M. Cooper's most recent book, Countless Blessings: A History of Childbirth and Reproduction in Niger, sets out to understand childbirth in a country with the world's highest fertility rate and an alarmingly high rate of maternal and infant mortality. Cooper sketches a landscape where fear of infertility generates intense competition between communities, ethnicities, and co-wives and creates a culture where concerns about infertility dominate concerns about overpopulation, where illegitimate children are rejected, and where the education of girls is sacrificed in the name of avoiding shame. Given a medical system poorly adapted to women's needs, a precarious economy, and a political context where it is impossible to address sexuality openly, Cooper discovers that it is little wonder that pregnancy and birth are a woman's greatest pride as well as a source of grave danger.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

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