État et contrôle de la sexualité reproductive (Suisse, Suède et Royaume-Uni)


État et contrôle de la sexualité reproductive: l’exemple des politiques eugénistes dans les démocraties libérales (Suisse, Suède et Royaume-Uni)

This article examines a specific area of the politics of sexuality, focusing on the eugenic measures that various liberal democracies applied from the 1920s to the 1960s. More precisely, the policy trajectories of measures such as eugenic sterilizations in Switzerland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom will serve as a basis for theorizing the role of the state in regulating and policing the reproductive sexuality, sexual practices, and sexual identities of its citizens. Exploring the links between sexuality, politics, and the state will lead me to argue that the notion of the state itself needs unpacking. I will suggest, firstly, that examples of concrete eugenic measures demonstrate that states have not always acted in coherent, homogeneous ways in this area. State intervention in this domain was at times non-systematic, or even contradictory. I will argue, secondly, that eugenic measures were developed both within, and outside of (or even against), the state. Paragovernmental actors such as psychiatric clinics or local authorities have often played key roles in the eugenic regulation of sexuality. Furthermore, key actors in the application of eugenic sterilizations, such as doctors’ organizations, were in some cases politically opposed to policy-making in this area, since they considered state intervention as a threat to their own autonomy of action. The presence or absence of official state policies is therefore an insufficient indicator of the importance of eugenic practices in specific national contexts, I shall argue. In order to fully grasp the complexity of such political dynamics, it is crucial to take into account the ways in which state institutions and policy-making are structured by wider social relations of power around sexualities, as well as around other identity-markers such as gender, “race,” social class or disabilities.



Publication information


David Paternotte, Bruno Perreau


Société québécoise de science politique, Politique et Sociétés Volume 31, numéro 2, 2012 «Sexualité et politique en francophonie», p. 31–50








Research labels:



Gender Studies, Sociology