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[Call for papers] N° 88 – Births in Latin America: changes in practices and social norms

Issue guest edited by Carole Brugeilles (université Paris-Nanterre, Cresspa-GTM) and Françoise Lestage (université Paris-Diderot, Urmis).

Abstracts to be sent by: April, 30th 2017.

Articles to be submitted by: October, 15th 2017.

Publication of special issue: september 2018.


In Latin America, social and economic developments, sometimes combined with policies encouraging the limitation of births, have led to a rapid demographic transition in fertility [Guzmán et al., 2006 ; Cosio-Zavala, 1994]. In the 1980s, only five countries had an average number of children per woman of less than three. In 2015, the countries where women have an average of three or more children have become scarce; there are now only four. A gift of God, accepted without planning by a large majority, the birth of a child has become a less frequent event in the lives of Latin Americans. This demographic transition infertility has been accompanied by increasing medicalization of reproductive life: family planning and contraception, pregnancy and childbirth care, and medical help for procreation. Evolutions in behavior, social and biomedical norms that underlie them, as well as social, family and demographic policies, have led to a renewal of societal and research problems related to the birth of a child and to fertility. This raises many questions.

Birth planning and parenthood

Can we conclude from the sharp decline in fertility that there is a real family planning associated with a parental project, that is to say, a new representation of parenthood and circumstances deemed socially adequate for the reception of a baby? In this logic, the arrival of the first child often occurs at the end of a process marked by the end of studies, leaving the parental home, the first job, and the first marriage. A good economic and environmental situation is expected, a “good partner” deemed worthy of parenting. How do the births, of first then subsequent children, fit into the trajectories of Latin American life today? To what contraceptive, biomedical or social representations and norms do they respond? What effects are produced by social, ethnic or national differences?

Parents are faced with new responsibilities with the planned birth of a child because they have to show it love and ensure its physical and emotional fulfillment. Control of fertility goes hand in hand with new injunctions concerning the role of a “good mother”, available and loving [Bajos and Ferrand, 2004]. The place of paternity and its significance also evolve [Rojas, 2014]. How are the representations and norms governing maternity and paternity redefined in the context of a rapid decline in fertility?

Contraceptive norms and practices, voluntary abortion

In Latin America, the decline in fertility is associated with a massive spread of modern contraception. The increase in contraceptive prevalence has been accompanied by the creation of norms of contraception relating to the timing of practices and the prescription of different methods. On the one hand, family planning can lead to changed trajectories, allowing pre-marital sexuality without the risk of unwanted pregnancy and/or conjugal life without children at the beginning of the marriage. What are the relationships between sexuality, marriage and procreation? What are the synergies between medical norms and social norms on these topics? On the other hand, understanding contraceptive behaviors and norms that underlie them requires analyzing the processes of acceptance, or refusal, of the use of contraceptive methods by women, and considering the relationship with their spouse. This involves analyzing the medical supply of contraception defined by logistic conditions (infrastructures, resources, personnel) and by biomedical standards. In many countries, these have contributed to a radicalization of the medicalization of reproductive life with increasing use of female sterilization.

Often illegal or subject to very strict rules, voluntary abortion remains very controversial and raises questions of ethics and social justice. The pre-embryonic legal condition is defended in different countries with the inscription of the right to the life of the fetus in the constitution, whilst abortions are a means of control of fertility. What is the place of abortion in the field of reproduction?

Pregnancy, delivery and medical care

Parallel to fertility decline and the spread of modern contraception, medical follow-up of pregnancy and delivery has developed. While the sub-continent is characterized by a wide diversity of care, it is also marked by a radicalization of medicalization of delivery with increasing use of caesarean section [Brugeilles, 2014]. This process will be examined in relation to contraceptive practices, fertility behaviors, and biomedical and social norms. The point is to understand how reproductive care gives more and more place to surgery via sterilization and caesarean section. And paradoxically, how some populations do not have access to a minimal level of medical care.

Fetus and embryo representations and definitions of maternity and paternity

In a context of limiting births and less demographic pressure, consideration of problems of infertility is increasing. They gained legitimacy while medically assisted procreation techniques developed. The issues of the “right to the child”, for populations that cannot reproduce naturally, have grown. Medically assisted procreation, such as gestation for others, is the subject of debate that goes beyond Latin America [Lestage and Olavarria, 2014]. It must be part of global processes that are also anchored in the changing representations of birth, maternity and paternity. Furthermore, political and religious positions about abortion contribute to producing systems of abandonment and donation of children controlled by the dominant classes [Delord, 2014; Durin, 2014]. In the same countries, assisted reproduction techniques allow some couples to have children, without any law regulating these practices. What are the consequences of these legislations – or absences of legislation? What are the effets of new reproductive technologies on the representations of the fetus and the embryo, on reproductive and social inequalities or on the contours of maternity and paternity?

Issues of ethics are presents in all topics related to births, notably through respect for “reproductive rights” or “reproductive justice”, concepts used by activists, politicians and researchers to articulate health, human rights and social, gender and ethnic inequalities.

The publication will discuss issues that concern all social and human sciences, including those that reflect the diversity of state policies, but also of populations and their differences.

Procedure for submission

Articles may be submitted in French, Spanish, or English. Article submissions must contain:

  • name, lastname;

  • university or research center;

  • short CV with e-mail adress;

  • title of the article;

  • 350 words abstract of the article.

They must be sent to both of the special issue guest editors by April, 30th 2017 at the following e-mail addresses:

Authors will be informed within a month by the Editorial Committee of the Cahiers des Amériques Latines whether their abstract has been accepted.

Full articles (45.000 letters approximately, counting spaces, footnotes, bibliography, abstracts and keywords) are to be submitted by October, 15th 2017. All articles will be double-blind reviewed; final decision regarding acceptance lies with the Editorial Committee of the Cahiers des Amériques Latines.

Publication is expected in September 2018.

Please see the instructions for authors.

All articles that are not up to those standards will not be considered.


Bajos Nathalie and Ferrand Michèle, « La contraception, levier réel ou symbolique de la domination masculine », Sciences sociales et santé, n°3, 2004, p. 117-142.

Brugeilles Carole, « L’accouchement par césarienne, un risque pour les droits reproductifs ? », Autrepart, n° 70, 2014, p. 143-164.

Cosio-Zavala Maria Eugenia, « Singularités et modalités des transitions de la fécondité en Amérique latine », in Daniel BENOIT and Marc PILON (eds.), « Maîtrise de la fécondité et planification familiale au Sud », Actes des Ve Journées démographiques de l’Orstom (Paris, 28-30 septembre 1994), « Colloques et séminaires », Orstom, Paris.

DELORD Amandine, « Le don d’enfant en Colombie : des bonnes raisons aux justifications », in Françoise LESTAGE and Maria Eugenia OLAVARRIA (eds.), Adoptions, dons et abandons au Mexique et en Colombie : des parents vulnérables, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2014, p. 19-59.

DURIN Séverine, « Sauver des vies : migration féminine, grossesse non désirée et philanthropie anti-avortement au Mexique », in Françoise LESTAGE and Maria Eugenia OLAVARRIA (eds.), Adoptions, dons et abandons au Mexique et en Colombie : des parents vulnérables, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2014, p. 61-81.

GUZMÁN José Miguel et al., « La démographie de l’Amérique latine et de la Caraïbe depuis 1950 », Population, n° 5-6, 2006, p. 623-734.

LESTAGE Françoise and OLAVARRIA Maria Eugenia (eds.), Adoptions, dons et abandons au Mexique et en Colombie : des parents vulnérables, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2014.

Rojas Olga, Estudios sobre la reproducción masculina, México, Cedua, 2014.

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