Dharashree Das is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Prentice Institute for Global Population and Economy, University of Lethbridge. She is trained as a feminist medical anthropologist with a PhD in Anthropology from Simon Fraser University. She also holds an M.Phil in Social Medicine and Community Health from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. Her research areas are critical policy and demographic studies, maternal and reproductive health, social reproduction and care work, and family planning and contraceptive technologies. During her time at the Institute, she will work on publishing journal articles and a book manuscript based on her PhD dissertation. Her ethnographic research is based on long-term fieldwork in Delhi. In this research she pursued this central question: How do low-income Muslim women make and sustain families in the context of coercive family-planning policies of the Indian state, gendered family and neighborhood dynamics, and social and economic disparities?
Her recently completed dissertation, “Matters of the Womb: Muslim Women’s Narratives of Fertility, Family, and the Indian State,” examines how low-income Muslim women in India imagine, embody, and strategize with relation to family-planning programs and population control policies, especially in the context of religious prejudices, class discrimination, and gender biases. She focuses on how familial lives mesh with the domains of policy prescriptions, institutional arrangements, and neighborhood dynamics by documenting the mismatch between ground-level realities and macro-state policies. Although India’s population control policy was rebranded in the 1990s as family planning, it still continues to prioritize a coercive and interventionist approach to limiting birth rates instead of promoting a holistic framework that considers the well-being of families. The policy introduced the notion of choice, a central component of the neoliberal state policies that celebrates freedom, autonomy, and individual rights in the pursuit of reproductive goals. It is donor-driven and far-removed from the structural conditions that influence women’s decision making and their everyday lives. She argues against this naive view of choices that characterizes current reproductive health policy, instead using the concept of decision making to analyze ground-level actions that orchestrate forms of power, agency, and resistance with regard to birthing and contraception.
She deployed a range of qualitative methodological tools, especially in-depth interviews, ethnography, oral histories, and family biographies, to map the life stories, relations of poverty, and health trajectories of her interlocutors. For her research, she has written successful grant applications and received competitive fellowships from, for example, the Foundation for Urban and Regional Studies Studentship (UK), the International Development Research Centre (Canada), the Pacific Century Graduate Scholarship (Canada), and the Dr. Hari Sharma Foundation Annual Graduate Scholarship (Simon Fraser University, Canada).