Kililng Infants

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Awarded the Adele Mellen Prize for Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship

This book contains a collection of twelve essays about the practice of infanticide in different parts of the world and written by women from different academic disciplines, with an introductory chapter that analyzes the origins and development of scholarship on this topic. The book’s essays are divided into four parts that open with brief introductions. Two of these sections are based on common themes of infanticide, and the other two on the applications of similar methodologies.

Part one contains essays that highlight the persistence of race and inequality in shaping the context of infanticide in such diverse terrains as the Caribbean, Australia, and the American South. The second section demonstrates how governments in England, Canada, and the Soviet Union used their authority to control women’s behavior by instituting policies they thought would deter women from committing infanticide. The last two sections contain a variety of essays about infanticide in Africa and the Americas, but are similar in applying the case study method of analysis. The final part demonstrates the effectiveness of using sex ratios and computer data analysis to study infanticide in Asia and western Europe. The book concludes with a lengthy, multidisciplinary bibliography of the infanticide literature.


“This volume is a significant contribution to the growing literature on neo-natal death. More important, it is a compelling set of essays written by veteran and new researchers whose work challenges oft-quoted shibboleths, myths, and theories about murdering mothers ... It should be noted that there is scholarly passion in the editors’ conceptualization of the study of infanticide; it centers on the importance of multicultural and multidisciplinary studies at both the macro and micro levels. This significant study of infanticide opens the reader’s mind to unsettling, but well-studied commentary ...” (from the Preface) Professor Susan P. Conner, Vice President and Dean, Florida Southern College

“ ... By concentrating on the issue of infanticide in the modern world, the editors have provided a fascinating look at women that refuses to compartmentalize them as merely victims of or perpetrators in patriarchal society. The variety of sources, locations, methodological approaches and points of view underscore this enlightened approach to a topic that is often slighted or ignored. This book is not the last word on this topic; one of its greatest strengths is the questions it raises and the challenges it poses for future research and analysis. It belongs in every college and university library.” – Professor Nancy E. Rupprecht, Middle Tennessee State University

Table of Contents

Preface by Susan P. Conner
1. Introduction: Towards an Understanding of the Infanticide Scholarship – Brigitte H. Bechtold and Donna Cooper Graves

Part I: Race, Colonialism and Infanticide
2. “She Made to Crush the Child’s Fragile Skull”: Disease, Infanticide, and Enslaved Women in 18th Century Saint-Domingue – Karol K. Weaver
3. Infanticide and Infant Abandonment in the New South – Elna C. Green
4. Infanticide, Savagery and Civilization: The Australian Experience – Shurlee Swain

Part II: European Lawmakers and Infanticide
5. “ ... in a frenzy while raving mad”: Physicians and Parliamentarians Define Infanticide in Victorian England – Donna Cooper Graves
6. Unwilling Mothers and Unwanted Babies: Infanticide and Medico-Legal Responsibility in 20th Century Canadian Legal Discourse – Kirsten Johnson Kramar
7. Making Sense of the Murdering Mother: Soviet Criminologists and Infanticide in Revolutionary Russia – Sharon Kowalsky

Part III: Case Studies of Infanticide
8. Bearing the Burden of Bastardy: Infanticide, Race and Motherhood in Brazilian Slave Society – Jane-Marie Collins
9. “The Demon Superstition”: Abominable Twins and Mission Culture in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Onitsha, Nigeria – Misty L. Bastian
10. “What she want to go and do that for?” Examining Infanticide in Toni Morrison’s Beloved – Denise Shaw
11. “The death seemed rather unusual to me”: Infanticide Investigations into the Deaths of Legitimate Children in English-Speaking Victorian Canada – Janet McShane Galley

Part IV: Macroanalysis of Infanticide
12. The Relative Economic Valuation of Female and Male Offspring in Nineteenth-Century France – Brigitte Bechtold
13. Sex-Selective Infanticide and the “Missing Females” in India and China – Andrea M. den Boer and Valerie M. Hudson

Primary Sources
Infanticide Bibliography

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