Research Portfolio Post #1: My Research Interests

My research topic is female infanticide in South Asia and intends to highlight the role gender plays in the decisions women are making and the development and elevation of women’s status in society

I’ve only ever looked at infanticide through the context of China’s One-Child Policy or Post War Korea but I wanted to redirect my interest to South Asia to further understand infanticide as an evolving and global act.  Initially, my interest was to create a well-rounded understanding of the subject and reinforce much of the current knowledge of infanticide but in doing so I realized It would be a disservice to the true survivors of infanticide, the women and mothers both indirectly and directly involved in choosing to kill their own children.

My interest became a mission to create a narrative that looks deeper into the women making these decisions and the role society plays in reinforcing/ coercing these decisions. Therefore, I’m interested in the interaction and interplay between gender and society; putting women at the center as actors navigating and responding within these roles that society has put them in and pair these constraints with their own potential to overcome these societal expectations as a possible solution and or alternative to infanticide.

Coming to this idea that if we can understand the decisions women are making, we can greater understand the role that women play as both as a consequence and an indicator of development.

My research interest was inspired by Indian Economist, Amartya Sen, article  More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing which exposed the 100 Million women who were ‘missing’ or ‘lost’ due to either infanticide or poor health and related to high mortality rates.  Sen outlined how the current literature was not getting to the true ‘loss’ and impact factors leading to and revolving infanticide not only have on women but on their status and position in greater society [1]. The article sought to create a new narrative and conversation to a reality that many must face and I was inspired by Sen’s efforts and focus on women’s social and economic development.

In furthering my own research interests and process I wish to look more at even the context of infanticide scholarship and the perspectives and lenses in which female infanticide is written. Rather, looking to understand infanticide, not as a lack of women but an active decision in choosing boys over girls and less emphasis on why boys are chosen but more on why girls are not. The questions of why girls are consistently not the default.

I look forward to working with Olson Faculty to better outline my interests and topics and grow into a topic that is worthy of its content.




[1] Sen A. More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing. The New York Review of Books. 1990.

3 thoughts to “Research Portfolio Post #1: My Research Interests”

  1. Hey Liz!

    I think your topic is incredibly fascinating. I will definitely say you have a lot of clear goals on what you want to explore which I think is something to admire. As a feminist, I’m definitely intrigued to see where your research leads and the conclusions you end up making. I also definitely want to read the sources you ultimately find for your literature review! I have a few questions though about your research. Do you think cultural or socioeconomic factors will be the most convincing explanations of this phenomenon? Or do you expect it to not fit so neatly into a binary? When I think of your topic I think of other customs where the family essentially subjects their daughters to violence (female genital mutilation, honor killings, child marriage, etc). Usually discussions surrounding why these actions happen are usually framed as either or: economic or cultural. I also would like to know what your thoughts on how or even if this fits into feminist theory on body politics and the idea of a woman’s body being a site of violence for patriarchal gain.

  2. Hi Elizabeth,

    I am really intrigued by your topic. While I’ve thought about infanticide on multiple occasions, I’ve never really thought of it from the eyes of the women making the decisions and feel as though this is a really interesting perspective. I am also interested in looking at gender and we should meet up to discuss both of our projects, literature recommendations, interesting findings etc. and bounce ideas off one another!

    Previously, my knowledge on infanticide came from learning about cultural pressures and patriarchal societies in India. It might be worthwhile to explore not what families believe a boy can bring to the family, but what struggles females go though due to the patriarchal structure of the society.

    Additionally, it might be interesting to look into the possibility of having daughters as a security issue. While this isn’t in relation to South Asia, and rather Central Asia, one of the books I’ve read for my research, “The Underground Girls of Kabul,” discusses the extreme shaming of families but specifically mothers in certain societies in Afghanistan for having daughters. Additionally, the book discusses security issues such as sexual assault from husbands for not conceiving sons. Furthermore, the book illustrates how both societal pressure placed on mothers and the roles women are forced to play in a patriarchal society becomes is not only a security issue for the mother, but also the daughters who will be entering this society. It might be interesting to explore this in the context of South Asia and see if there are parallels that might look into why mothers are choosing to commit infantcide on daughters as a choice for the security of both the mother and the daughter.

    I am really excited to see what direction you chose to take and can’t wait to read your work!

  3. Overall you have a good start here, Lizzie, and you’ve also received some good feedback from your peers (so be sure to keep considering the questions/suggestions that they have provided!). Keep working towards identifying both the empirical and the conceptual sides to your explanatory puzzle as you think about moving towards that “why…?” or “what explains…?” question. Delving into the scholarly literature and debates in the topic area are one good way to keep moving your thoughts forward here. Keep reading and researching–I look forward to seeing how the project continues to develop!

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