Simmering Outrage During an “Epidemic” of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome


Author's Abstract, Page 69:

"In this paper I critique understanding held by dominant Canadian society about the reproductive lives of Indigenous women. Specifically I explore how local reproductive relations are constituted by intersecting discourses emerging out of arenas of science, medicine, public health, and front-line service provision that empower certain categories of people to nurture and reproduce, while the reproductive futures of others are discouraged and if at all possible, avoided (Ginsburg and Rapp 3). I examine how portrayals of an "epidemic" of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) unfolding in Indigenous communities has been invoked to support increased surveillance and control of Indigenous women's fertility, without meaningful supports and services being put in place for mem. Supporting the image of a " FAS epidemic," is the practice of non-medical labelling of Indigenous women as having fetal alcohol-related brain damage. The paper examines how, with the creation of this new population of" FAS persons," FAS prevention strategies targeting Indigenous women have expanded beyond simply preventing pregnant women from drinking alcohol, but now include as an equal focus, pregnancy prevention with approaches ranging from increased use of chemical contraception' to permanent sterilization. As a micro example of this larger phenomenon, the events of the workshop described in this paper help to illustrate that apart from serving as a medical diagnosis, the category FAS simultaneously exists in Canada as a means by which negative stereotypes about Indigenous women and the place of their reproductive futures in the nation's body are reinforced. This is an image that allows for certain actions to be mobilized while others are not." (69). 

Publication Information

Tait, Caroline L. "Simmering Outrage During an “Epidemic” of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome." Canadian Women Studies/les Cahiers de la Femme’s. 26 (3/4) (Winter/Spring 2008): 69-76.

Tait, Caroline L.
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