Populating the 1980s

Populating the 1980s: A Decade Revisited

Online Seminar Series, Starts 29 March 2023

Historiography on population management in the 1930s-70s has been diverse and multifocal. Stemming from a discursive critique of Malthusianism in its various forms, this literature links coercion and calculated consent from South Asia to the Americas. The 1980s present a new query.

The task ahead is to think about the afterlife of demographic transition in different political geographies. This period has been relatively understudied in some contexts (like South Asia) and over studied in others (China). The period has also seen a major political event overshadow our frameworks: the split of the USSR and the impending ‘end of history’.

How do we walk past these reductive narratives and produce newer insights? How do we read population in the 1980s – as an artefact from the preceding decades or something not quite so obsolete?


29 March 2023, Mytheli Sreenivas (Ohio State)
“South Asia, Population Planning and National Imaginations: A Discussion on Method and Periodization”

26 April 2023, Sanjam Ahluwalia (Northern Arizona University)
“Entertainment Interruptus: Films Division of India’s Messaging on Population Control, Family Planning, and Happiness, in the 1980s”

24 May 2023, Aya Homei (Manchester University)
“Under the Name of Friendship: Population Politics & Sino-Japanese Cooperation in Family Planning in the 1980s”

11 October 2023, Raúl Antonio Necochea (University of North California)
”From Demographic to Discursive Explosion: New Players & Priorities in 1980s Peru”

15 November 2023, Sarah Mellow Rodriguez (Missouri State University)
”From Pronatalism to Just One Child and Back Again: The Making and Unmaking of China’s One Child Policy”

27 March 2024, Alison Bashford (UNSW)
”Demographic Transition as an Artefact: Ten Years of Global Population – History, Geopolitics & Life on Earth & Everything in Between”

Talks are held at 11am Sydney time, unless otherwise stated. This series is convened by Dr Aprajita Sarcar. Contact a.sarcar@unsw.edu.au for more information.

Catch Up on the Sessions So Far

Professor Mytheli Sreenivas (Ohio State) is joined by Darshi Thoradeniya (University of Colombo) and Amna Qayyum, to discuss reproductive politics in South Asia. 29 March 2023.
In the second session of the “Populating the 1980s” series, we welcomed Associate Professor Sanjam Ahluwalia, who discussed the use of films to propagate family planning messages in India in the 1980s. 26 April 2023.

In our third session of the ‘Populating the 1980s’ series, Dr Aya Homei (Manchester University) joins Dr Aprajita Sarcar (UNSW) to discuss Sino-Japanese cooperation on family planning in the 1980s. 24 May 2023.