Colonizing Women's Bodies : Population Policies and Nationhood in Eighteenth-Century Sweden

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Colonizing Women's Bodies : Population Policies and Nationhood in Eighteenth-Century Sweden

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Publication Article, peer reviewed scientific
Title Colonizing Women's Bodies : Population Policies and Nationhood in Eighteenth-Century Sweden
Author(s) Edgren, Monika
Date 2010
English abstract
This article explores the establishment of a population policy in Sweden in the eighteenth century. Swedish population policy, making use of systematic church registers, became the basis for a new system of knowledge built on gender and sexual differences. In order to increase the population rate, the Swedish state promoted motherhood, thus qualitatively binding the state and its nation's inhabitants. Parliament's foundation of a Department of Public Economics was the cornerstone of a national discourse on population, laden with references to "the common good." In the mercantile era, when people were viewed as resources and more people meant an increased capacity to compete in the international economy, new forms of knowledge were created to manage and promote population growth. Children were regarded as the hope of the future. This discourse colonized women's bodies by giving women a national task to become child bearers, child carers, and, accordingly, guardians of the nation. Carl Linnaeus, one of the most well-known scientists of the time, championed the importance of the biological mother's milk for children and the strengthening of "natural" motherhood in general. Nevertheless, population growth and workforce reproduction were of such a high priority to the state that even unwed mothers had a role in growing the nation. Poor relief regulations offered economic compensation to mothers, including those who were sole providers. Motherhood as a national resource and as a symbol in nationalistic projects incorporated women into the state as mothers, not as individuals.
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/jowh.0.0146 (link to publisher's fulltext)
Publisher Johns Hopkins University Press
Host/Issue Journal of Women's History;2
Volume 22
ISSN 1042-7961
Pages 108-132
Language eng (iso)
Subject(s) Population Policies
Nationhood
Carl von Linneus
Mercantilism
Motherhood
Humanities/Social Sciences
Research Subject Categories::HUMANITIES and RELIGION::History and philosophy subjects::History subjects::History
Research Subject Categories::INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH AREAS::Gender studies
Handle http://hdl.handle.net/2043/10493 (link to this page)

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