Population management: the origins, implementation, and breakdown of localized population policy in Tanzania (1948-1999)
MetadataShow full item record
Panic over human population growth became a near-global phenomenon in the second half of the twentieth century. International networks encouraged governments to adopt population control methodologies that used state power and national policy to incentivize, and sometimes coerce, lower fertility rates. By the end of the century, the failures and draconian nature of population control led to a rebuke of broad demographic interventions. Population policy shifted toward a reproductive rights framework that privileged individual prerogative over any national agenda. My research introduces a conceptual middle ground that allows for coordinated state programming in the face of undesirable demographic trajectories, while also upholding a spectrum of individual liberty – what I call “population management.” The model for population management is not hypothetical, but materialized in Tanzania during the Ujamaa era that lasted roughly two decades from 1967 to 1986. Through robust leadership, a sense of imagined kinship, moral nuance, and an active policymaking coalition, Tanzania nurtured an approach to changing demographics that centered population within its broader postcolonial development project. Population management encouraged reciprocal state and community action to assuage problems brought on by an increasing population, including education reforms, diversified family planning, and public health campaigns. The flexible concept of “responsible parenthood” kept varying groups of government actors, religious authorities, women’s organizations, community leaders, and health practitioners on the same page, as their multiplicity of lived experience helped define and inform policy. Tanzania’s population management agenda reframes the historical narrative away from a binary of state control versus individual rights, and provides a model for future policymaking. Combating the attendant problems of population change requires broad networks working together, which makes collaboration and flexibility key to maintaining collective action. As global demographic agendas diverge with rapid population growth in regions of Africa and depopulation in high-income countries, governments will need to adopt contextualized population policies that acknowledge unique historical, personal, and local sensitivities.