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“Plan Your Family - Plan Your Nation”: The Demographic Policies of International Organizations in Kenya (1960s - 1980s)

Ph.D. Student: Maria Dörnemann

The focus of this dissertation project is on the diagnosed problem of overpopulation in Kenya since the mid-1960s. Given the widespread fear of a “population explosion” in the Third World, international organizations, experts, and elite Kenyan functionaries tried to attain a national population count and influence population growth after Kenya gained independence in 1963. In order to gain insight into these processes, the first analytical question focuses on the genesis of demographic data. How did demographers, with the help of statistics, construe the population? In a second step, the study looks at how statistical data was used to problematize population growth and which practices were supposed to be implemented in order to curb population growth.

The problematization of the population issue can be understood as a product of concepts of order based on theories of modernization. At the same time, these perceptions shaped what actions were taken. Consequently, modernization cannot only be described within a theoreti-cal framework – it also has to be dealt with in terms of praxis. Indeed, these elements of prax-is were supposed to re-structure notions of the family, rural space, and economic realities. This study will thus examine to what degree the serious loss of credibility suffered by mod-ernization theories since the 1970s has affected demographic conceptions, policies, and prac-tices in Kenya.


Personal Website of Maria Dörnemann at the University of Tübingen.