Michelle Murphy is Professor of History and Women and Gender Studies at the University of Toronto and the author of
Arc II traces the experimental exuberance of data-collecting practices within U.S.-encouraged family planning projects of the 1960s through 1980s, focusing on Bangladesh as a crucial site of global neoliberal invention. This explosion of social science techniques for governing fertility became a widespread form of experimentality, that is, an experimental infrastructure for the governing of life. This experimentality strove to rearrange birth rates not only through the disbursement of contraceptives but also through practices of motivation and the rearrangement of affects and imaginaries. The exuberant infrastructures built for averting birth stood in contrast to those for averting death from diarrhea and were manifest in the different benefits to gdp calculated for preventing life versus preventing death. This arc shows how some (and not other) kinds of infrastructures were repeatedly reproduced in the name of averting life, resulting in a thick archive of postcolonial data that could be mined and reframed in the future.