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The Ties That Bind: Infanticide, Gender, and Society

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Abstract

Infanticide is seen to be a horrific act, and yet this article finds that a growing body of literature on the topic is proving that infanticide is tied to human history. It provides a synthesis of the literature and identifies new directions in the scholarship since William L. Langer. These new directions move beyond the infanticidal act itself to an understanding of the circumstances that prompt it. They make clear that women’s bodies tie them to their sexuality and the need to nurture children. Moreover, women must carry out these responsibilities while tied to hostile environments, cultural proscriptions, patriarchal law, and the violence of war. Infanticide scholarship, then, uncovers the numerous ties that bind women together as victims who are driven to infanticide and also as women who have exhibited agency in an attempt to move beyond victimhood and assert control over their own destiny.

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