In today’s episode, Alyssa and Brendane explain why we chose ‘Daughters’, play a new game called “Defund Reform Abolish,” and unpack Achille Mbembe’s concept of necropolitics in conversation with Angela Davis’ brilliant essay “Racism, Birth Control and Reproductive Rights” who helps us contextualizes the history of birth control movements and eugenics. In our What in the World?! segment, we ask What in the Jordan Peele?! is up with the mass hysterectomies in ICE detention, the erasure of Black immigrants from the immigration outrage, and the neo-Malthusian rhetoric surrounding COVID-19 as a solution to overpopulation and climate change. Plus, we get a little off-topic and start talking about 90 Day Fiance.

Zora’s Daughters Podcast: Episode Six

Co-Hosts: Brendane Tynes and Alyssa A.L. James
Title: Deathcraft Country
Total Length: 01:24:01

Trancript by Kamry Goodwin, Content Editor

Brendane Tynes  00:00

She did what Black women always do, right, which is she rang the motherfucking alarm on some injustice. She let the world know that mass hysterectomies were being performed in these ICE detention centers, which we now know house a disproportionate number of Black people. Yeah, she must be protected like

Alyssa A.L. James  00:20

Absolutely. Black women, we stay throwing our bodies onto grenades that other people be taking the pins out of. [Intro Music] [00:44] Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Zora’s Daughters podcast. It’s your sis, Alyssa, one Canadian-Jamaican woman, Anthropology PhD student who is masked up at all times, currently staying alive and staying Black in New York City.

Brendane Tynes  01:00

Ooh, such a such a brilliant thing to say these days. I’m Brendane. I’m a Black American Southern woman trying to pay her bills, chile, decorate her house, and do socially distanced fieldwork based in Baltimore.

Alyssa A.L. James  01:18

Okay. All right. So today, we’re going to be unpacking reproductive rights, necropolitics, and immigration with our three segments: What’s the Word?, What We’re Reading, and What in the World!?

Brendane Tynes  01:30

Thank you to our donors Faye, Ampson, Severin, Cassie, Akshay—hey Akshay! —and Latasia. Thank you so much. Your support is invaluable. And if you’re listening now, and you’re like, well, I don’t have no money. It’s okay. You don’t have to give us your money to support us. Right. If you would like to follow us on social media, you can find us at zorasdaughters on Instagram and zoras_daughters on Twitter. And if you would like us to host a virtual workshop on Black feminist anti-racism for your business or your organization, you can book us by emailing Also, if you teach and you want us to come in and talk to your class, we’re down to do that, too.

Alyssa A.L. James  02:20

We’re so down. Another way you can support us is if you are listening on Apple Podcasts, just pause us for a second, get us out of your ear just for one second, and leave us a five-star rating and review and let the world know how dope you think we are. Because whoever LimeBean4Jesus is

Brendane Tynes  02:38

And it’s like, Mayyadda, girl is that you?! I just wanna know.

Alyssa A.L. James  02:44

LimeBean4Jesus, we thank you for our first and so far only review. So if you’re using that platform to listen and rate or any other platform where you can rate and review, please do that, because it helps massively with helping other people find our podcast. And so if you’ve watched the Social Dilemma on Netflix, I don’t know, Brendane, if you’ve seen it yet, but you know, all of this kind of like visibility stuff is determined by some algorithm. And those algorithms, algorithms are made by nerdy white dudes in Silicon Valley. And these algorithms are racist. So you know, just just just help these sisters out, you know

Brendane Tynes  03:19


Alyssa A.L. James  03:22

So we actually Zoomed into a class at NYU. What’s up, y’all?

Brendane Tynes  03:27


Alyssa A.L. James  03:28

This week, and we got a really great question about our name. A student asked why we chose “daughters” over another kinship term. And you know, why we chose to kind of evoke kinship as well. And of course, I just did my very like, blunt thing, and I just said, “It’s just some hella Black shit that Black people do.” You know we say “hey sis.” Men say “wassup son” to their peers. You know, we call our elders “auntie.” And, you know, Zora’s Nieces wouldn’t have had the same ring to it even though you know, we might call her auntie. But you know, Brendane, you had a much more nuanced response.

Brendane Tynes  04:04

Also, because I was like, let me pause and think about this. But yeah, you know, you did the Aquarius, let me jump on in and you can see straight kind of thing. Um, and yeah, so I think first, I seconded your blunt response about it being Black shit, like I was like, yeah, Black people and Indigenous folks have been making kin for centuries, without the need for this kind of these blood relations. And blood, especially for us, you know, “New World” folks out here who might not know our [ancestors], right, it doesn’t really do much for dictating who we might call family. And if we’re being real about it, like blood mainly matters in a capitalist society for two reasons: it’s to help you determine who gets your property and who is allowed to reproduce. Like so like, white, propertied men need to know who to give their land to and honestly whom not to marry. And if you are thinking of a Jerry Springer joke here, I mean somebody, I’m sure, is thinking what I’m thinking, you know, especially when thinking about whom not to marry.  But in relation to daughters, I think about daughters as a relationship with possibility for expansion and extension. As a new generation, we are, of course, indebted to those that come before us, like we are indebted to our mother Zora. But being a daughter allows us to take her legacy into new places. And so we’re a part of that legacy. And we also have the ability to create our own. And nieces also just sounded a little too distant for me. But I feel like daughters just implies a certain type of intimacy.

Alyssa A.L. James  05:52

Yes. Yeah, I appreciate that well-thought-out response, because it would take me like days of writing to come to that even though you know, I feel it somewhere deep inside me, I’m always not great at verbalizing and articulating it. So I definitely appreciate you for that, being here with me on this podcast, [crosstalk] together.

Brendane Tynes  06:16

I love you, first and foremost, let’s get that out there. But also just like, my work looks at generation and like generational violence, so the writing and stuff I’ve done and thought of. So it’s like, I’ve done reading and writing about this, and that’s probably why I’m able to be like, boop, boop, boop, here it is, here’s my answer.

Alyssa A.L. James  06:38

Yeah. So we were very grateful to that student for that question. And yes, just to have been in that class, and, you know, been asked some questions, that we hadn’t quite, you know, necessarily thought out. And it was useful to really, to verbalize and articulate them and just bring them out into the world. So that was great. So instead of our usual, you know, question of the week, we decided to introduce a little game. It is what we’re going to call the radical version of Fuck, Marry, Kill. It’s called Defend, Reform, Abolish. And so the game, if you don’t know how it’s played [Laughter] So usually, you are, you know, you choose three people, usually three people that are, you know, nearly indistinguishable. You can’t decide between and you choose one fuck—Mom, I’m so sorry—you choose one to marry, and one to kill. So in this case, I’m going to give Brendane three things. And she has to decide which one to defund, which one to reform, and which one to abolish.

Brendane Tynes  07:55

Oh, God. Oh, man, so I have honestly never played this game before. And so I..we’ll see how it goes. Because so what are my three choices?

Alyssa A.L. James  08:11

All right, your three choices are the CIA, national borders, and ICE.

Brendane Tynes  08:26

Oh, chile. Mmm. Wow. Okay, don’t put, don’t anybody, okay, this is not a reflection of my actual politics. It’s part, I’m playing the game. Okay. Um, [if] I could defund one of them. I would definitely defund the CIA. I would defund y’all, y’all are done. Reform, I guess, reform national borders, because I feel like that one, you know, why not just reform it away? Or like, you know, just reform away.

Alyssa A.L. James  09:04

You’re trying to get that loophole in there.

Brendane Tynes  09:08

And abolish ICE. Like, fuck them. Fuck all that. I did not know how to play this game. So I thought that we were like naming our own category. I’m sorry, I’m just cracking up because I really had no clue. But so I thought we were naming like our own categories, so like, defund, reform, and abolish and we would like come back with. So I did not have any choices for Alyssa. But what I do have are three things that I would like to defund, reform, and abolish. So I really want to defund whoever is given these ashy, blockheaded niggas the audacity to write checklists for their future wives. Who is paying them because you don’t not need the money anymore. And if y’all know who I’m making a reference to, you know who I’m making a reference to but you—defund all of that. No more money, you—no, it’s gone. Please reform these graduate student pay systems so that they’re actually equitable. But honestly, the language of reform for me, it’s just like, Is it useful? Because reform just means you’re taking the same things and like making it a little different? I don’t know. But that’s a philosophical argument I feel like. But if we’re talking about abolishing, especially this week, abolish the police. They—done, it’s over. There’s no, no. And then also abolish debt, because again, I’m trying to pay bills. So abolish debt. Let’s move on. Let’s…we’re beyond this. It’s beyond me. It’s above me, it’s below me. I just, we gotta go. You gotta let it go.

Alyssa A.L. James  10:58

No, I’m with you on all of those things. I think the ashy, blockheaded dude, like. [Laughter] Every time I saw that list, I was just like, first of all, I had to ask bae a lot of questions. I was like, “What’s a Proverbs 31 Wife?”

Brendane Tynes  11:17

Oh, did you read it?

Alyssa A.L. James  11:19

I didn’t read proverbs 31. They just explained to me that it’s like a virtuous wife. And then I was like, “What’s an intercessor? Is that how you say it? An intercessor?

Brendane Tynes  11:28

Mm hmm. Yeah.

Alyssa A.L. James  11:29

And he was like, “The intercessor is Jesus.” Like, I don’t understand why he’s looking for a wife that is an intercessor.

Brendane Tynes  11:35

Oh, that’s interesting. So in my church, or where I grew up, anybody can be an intercessor for someone. So that’s just someone who like, goes on your behalf to God. So they pray for you. This could be like a pastor or a friend who you’re like, “Can you intercede for me? I have these issues.” So but yeah, like Jesus is the ultimate intercessor.

Alyssa A.L. James  11:56

Right. Yeah. I mean, that’s how he explained it. Like anybody who will pray or, you know, ask for the—I don’t know, do you ask?—pray for things on your behalf. That is how he explained it to me. But he said that, like, Jesus is who we really think of as an intercessor. So

Brendane Tynes  12:13

Right. In Protestant traditions. Yeah. So that’s like, that’s so interesting that a Proverbs 31 woman is like a woman who gets up at five o’clock and at the crack of dawn, and she is a businesswoman. But also, she cleans her house. And she never says no to her husband when he wants to do sexual things. She’s obviously straighter than straight. She is willing to have children at any point in time, which I think is interesting that this is brought up now for this episode, especially. And, yeah, a Proverbs 31 woman, I never wanted to be that person. I am, frankly, I’m too lazy. Even when I was into like the church, I was like, “Oh, this is who I’m supposed to be. I think me and God got to have a conversation because this not…it’s not gonna work, especially the getting up at dawn and going to bed at the late night hours to—Mm-mm.

Alyssa A.L. James  13:15

That’s really interesting. This is another thing that I have been learning a lot about since being in the US, which is just Black American Christianity, which I find I actually don’t know anyone who goes to church regularly like but from back home. Anyone my age anyways, I think it’s kind of something that our parents will get into once they’re like, “I’m ready to go home,” you know? Yeah. But among my group of friends, at least, I don’t really know that many people who go who go to church regularly who, who make it a part of their everyday conversation and life. So I’ve—that’s another thing that I found really, really interesting since being here in the US.

Alyssa A.L. James   14:00

Yeah. I mean, that’s not really what I’m finding because bae is Christian and a lot of his friends are in and/or from the church, so. So it’s been, it’s been really interesting and I find them to be super welcoming people and just, you know, just I think they’re great. So I’ve gone to church [a] few times, but I feel like I’m opening the door for people to start sending me emails, so [Crosstalk]

Brendane Tynes 

Yeah, I feel like, I mean, all of my, most of my friends, my close friends were like, church, we were at church going people and now like all of us are like, “Oh, church.” ‘Cept for one of them. She, Mayyadda, she actually sings like, that’s praise and worship and stuff like that. But yeah, we don’t really. It’s weird. It’s not weird, because we’re also all, well mostly all of us are like, queer, too. So it’s just like, Oh, like, as we all grow in our queerness, we’re like, “Oh, it’s so interesting how we were such like, emphatically church people in college. And now we’re like, oh, you know, spirituality doesn’t have to look this way.” It’s just so interesting to see how things evolve. But I think that’s like a millennial thing, though. Millennials aren’t really at church. I think a lot of us recognize that there are a lot of structural and institutional issues with the church. So we’re like, let’s stay away. Yes, please give us the autonomy to make our own religious decisions, please. Please, and thank you. But yeah, on that note.

Alyssa A.L. James  15:44

I know I’m like we’ve gotta get moving. Cuz we’ve got, we’ve got a word, we’ve got a word. We’re stretching ourselves with it. And I think that we’ve secretly been trying to avoid going to it (laughs)

Brendane Tynes  15:58

Hopefully so. So. Alyssa, what’s the word for today?

Alyssa A.L. James  16:05

The word for today is necropolitics

Brendane Tynes  16:09

Bum bum bum [Laughter]

Alyssa A.L. James  16:12

So necropolitics was elaborated by Achille Mbembe. He’s a Cameroonian philosopher and postcolonial theorist who holds appointments at the University of Wits in Johannesburg and Duke University.

Brendane Tynes  16:25

Oh Duke

Alyssa A.L. James  16:28

Dum dum dum

Brendane Tynes  16:30

Dum dum dum Duke. It’s a great place to talk about death. But so what does necropolitics mean? To break it down, “necro,” which is the prefix, is a Greek prefix that means death. So an example of another word that uses necro would be necrosis, or necromancy, which is the act of raising the dead. And if you recall, in a previous episode, we explained the shorthand for politics as being “power over.” So necropolitics means power over who lives and who dies. And that is the CliffsNotes version of how to think about this concept.

Alyssa A.L. James  17:09

I think breaking them down into the prefix and everything, that really helps when you’re trying to understand and also remember definitions of words, is if you look up the roots of words, and then you’ll start seeing them everywhere. And you’ll be like, “Oh okay, this is, at least you know what it’s related to.” And on that note, I was reading this website, and I’m pretty sure it was a hotep website. (laughs)

Brendane Tynes  17:29

There are so many.

Alyssa A.L. James  17:31

I just came across it. And it said that Negro also has its roots in the Greek “necro.” So you know, the Afropessimists were clearly onto something in regards to the whole Black equals death thing. But, but you know, don’t cite me on that one. But yes, so as we’ve said before, academia is a conversation. And so to really get into necropolitics, we actually first have to talk about Michel Foucault. Foucault is a French philosopher, probably heard people talk about him

Brendane Tynes  18:06

Yeah, I call him Foucy

Alyssa A.L. James  18:07


Brendane Tynes  18:08

Foucy, like pookie

Alyssa A.L. James  18:10

I like it, it’s like a little Foucy, but cooky. Cooky Foucy, oh my gosh. So in any case, so, biopolitics. That was a Foucauldian concept. And he was thinking about how states govern populations by essentially coaching us. And he used another word, he was talking about governmentality. But we’re essentially coached or trained to manage and regulate our own behavior. So biopolitics, then, is the management of life and populations to ensure that we sustain, multiply, and order the lives that are within the state. So Foucault, he really dismissed this idea of necropolitics. He was concerned with the history of Europe, of course. So he argued that the mark of modernity is actually moving on from a sovereign and a sovereign being a king or another kind of ruler, so a sovereign exercising power through violence and the threat of death, which is what he considered necropolitics. And so modernity is moving on from that type of, that way of exercising power and on to the administration of life by exercising power over physical and political bodies.

Brendane Tynes  19:26

Right. And so Foucault does say that racism functions as an easy metric to determine who the state makes live and whom it lets die. So since he is Eurocentric because Europe is the center of his world, right, these races are actually different ethnic and national groups. So race provided the justification for an unequal distribution of power among these groups, and then it determined which groups were going to be seen as lesser. And for those of you who have read Foucy, you might also hear the term biopower referenced a lot in his works. And the difference between biopower is that biopower is actually the technology or the techniques involved in accomplishing this objective of sustaining and controlling life. So thinking about different forms of medicine, right, or, like the CDC, which monitors disease and monitors like how people are infected, and who was infected, and how

Alyssa A.L. James  20:27

Or the census

Brendane Tynes  20:28

Or the census, which are instruments of and technologies of biopower that allow for us to understand populations and what’s happening to populations. And then biopolitics is the actual style of governing that regulates these populations through all of these different techniques.

Alyssa A.L. James  20:46

Right. So biopolitics that was, [Foucault] considered it necessary to capitalist development, and the continued functioning of capitalism. So maternity leave is actually a really good example of biopolitical governance. Society recognizes having children as a social good, right? Because it produces future laborers. It maintains the population levels so that we can continue to have labor and produce capital. And so governments, in this sense, they offer an incentive to creating, sustaining, and multiplying life. There we go, see what I did there?

Brendane Tynes  21:24

Okay! I see. I’m picking up what you’re puttin’ down. Yeah, so Mbembe felt that Foucy’s notion of biopower was insufficient to account for the continued necropolitical techniques of democracies that we will be discussing. Of course, we’ll be discussing that later. Additionally, as Saidiya Hartman and other Afropessimist scholars have argued, transforming human life into a fungible object of value, which we saw in the creation of the slave, right, was central to development of capitalist economies.

Alyssa A.L. James  21:59

Mm hmm. Of course, of course, white-ass Foucault ignores the whole, like necropolitical techniques of colonial slavery and expansion. Which totally, like, created the conditions of possibility for Western capitalism. Of course, he’s gonna ignore that.

Brendane Tynes  22:14

Why, I mean, you know, he did, because then he would actually have to give credit to the Black scholars that he stole from but ah, still I oop. (Laughs) Mbembe was, you know, let’s get back to Mbembe, he was very clear that sovereignty does not only reside, right,  in the power to “make live and let die” as Foucy argued. [Mbembe] writes that the ultimate expression of sovereignty resides in the power and the capacity to dictate, who may live and who must die. So he explains that weapons and other forms of terror and destruction create “death-worlds,” which is a form of social existence in which people live with small and large doses of death.

Alyssa A.L. James  22:58

Right. It’s the small doses that I think people often ignore, but we will get to that. But fundamentally, necropolitics is any kind of device, laws, measures that are created for the purpose of eliminating or controlling human populations. So death, and that can mean physical death, but it can also mean social or political death, it becomes an experience that structures our everyday life. So the COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect, and of course, deplorable, example of necropolitics. If you think about it, who was allowed to live and who was forced to die? So states made these decisions to proactively end lives right? They sent poor and vulnerable people back to work for the economy, quote, y’all can’t see my air quotes, but I’m air quoting. [Laughter] They fail to protect the elderly, the disabled, unhoused folks, and society in that sense, and that time, and in that moment, in this moment that we are still in, society is making very clear who needs to survive and who doesn’t.

Brendane Tynes  24:04

Right, and the powers that be are very clear about who they think needs to be alive and who doesn’t, especially when the data show that Black people were dying at three times the rate, and that was when we saw an acceleration of the push, of a populist push, for folks to no longer quarantine or self-quarantine. But some of the ways that we experience necropower is through state terror. So populations are repressed, they’re persecuted, imprisoned, or killed to neutralize political dissent, which means people who fight against this necropolitical regime are killed essentially, and that can be through slow deaths, of course, small deaths, as we mentioned earlier, but also large doses of death. And one anthropologist, who I think does an excellent job of examining necropolitics and necropower is Christen Smith. She is a Black feminist anthropologist at UT Austin. Wonderful, wonderful woman. And she argues in her book, Afro-Paradise: Blackness, Violence, and Performance in Brazil, that embodied practice of violence, like police violence, are spectacles of racialization, which means, you know, determining races, and that produce and articulate the moral and social boundaries of the nation. So these necropolitical powers not only relegate people to death but they also dictate, like affective, which is like emotional and also presentations of emotion, relationships that we have with different groups of people. And actually, through relegating certain folks to death we are actually showing that these people deserve to die. So that language around who deserves to die and who deserves to live is molded through necropolitics and necropower in the States.

Alyssa A.L. James  26:04

Yeah. I wonder if what Savannah Shange said yesterday at the Let Anthropology Burn talk? What kind of relates to that, like what she was talking about with Breonna Taylor and the recent indictment, or was he charged? So he was charged? right handed

Brendane Tynes  26:22

With wanton endangerment. So he was charged, he was charged for the bullets that went to the neighbor’s, but not for the bullets that killed Breonna Taylor.

Alyssa A.L. James  26:34

So Shange was basically saying that by making the wanton endangerment unreasonable, it makes the murder, the death of Breonna Taylor reasonable. And so I think that kind of relates to what you were just saying about, you know, by relegating these people to death, it means that their death is justified.

Brendane Tynes  26:58

Yes, and it is justified and also sustains the state. So it’s like, you can’t imagine the state existing as such without some population being relegated as disposable, right. And so, and Foucault kind of talks about them when he talks about racism, but I think, have Mbembe and other Black scholars really take up this understanding of biopower and necropolitical power and really say no, this is what makes the state a state through the way that it can dictate who lives and who dies, and especially with the technologies that are used now, to help or to aid in that. But necropower and necropolitics is not just something that’s restricted to countries that have autocratic or totalitarian regimes. These are not just relegated for countries with dictators. We’ve seen this in the US now, especially now and in the past in the 60s and 70s, with protesters who were imprisoned around the country. And Mbembe also in this article names the plantation and the apartheid state as examples of necropolitical politics at work. The plantation, of course, we know who was relegated to die on the plantation, but also interesting how the plantation works because they tried to preserve life, quote, unquote, as much as possible, but

Alyssa A.L. James  28:28

I think it was a, there was a different kind of death. Yeah, because I mean, he was also thinking with, with Agamben. Sorry y’all we’re about to nerd out.

Brendane Tynes  28:38

I was like, I was like, should I put Agamben? I was like, but then I was like, you know, do we want to start the whole bare life is Black life, their life conversation? And if you know what we’re talking about then

Alyssa A.L. James  28:54

We’re about to nerd out. But yeah, I mean, he’s thinking, he was also thinking with Agamben. So it wasn’t just these physical deaths, right? It was also political deaths, which you have, in which you have no rights, and you also can be killed without any consequences for that. So I think in that sense, there was an attempt to preserve life and also multiply life. But then there was a social death in that you could be killed, and nobody was going to face any consequences for it on the plantation.

Brendane Tynes  29:24

Right. And there are a lot of Black scholars who do work on the plantation, on the plantationocene, and just thinking about the ways that we see modern iterations of the plantation. And I mean, the apartheid state is one example. The US, I definitely believe the US is an apartheid state. And then also another example that Mbembe gestures towards but doesn’t really delve deeply in, in my opinion, was the Israeli occupation of Palestine as another example of necropolitical politics and power at work. Another example, because there are plenty of them

Alyssa A.L. James  30:00

We’ve got a lot of examples.

Brendane Tynes  30:03

Plenty of them in the world is through the exploitation of natural resources. So we’ve talked about environmental racism here. And if you think about the Indigenous peoples in the Amazon who are being displaced and eliminated by various organizations in order to gain their land and you know for lumber and things like that. So essentially, all boils down to, right, colonization breaks open and capitalism, I would say colonization and capitalism, breaks open the ground for necropolitical regimes by creating systems of power that dictate who can live and who must die. And in in many places around the world the people who must die are Black and/or Indigenous.

Alyssa A.L. James  30:47

Yeah, actually having this conversation now. It’s really made me realize that for some people, the state is biopolitical. And for other people, the state is necropolitical. So, and I think that we really see that with what we’re reading today. So Brendane, what are we reading today?

Brendane Tynes  31:07

We are reading my girl. “Racism, Birth Control and Reproductive Rights” in Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis. Just

Alyssa A.L. James  31:19

Angela Davis. Let’s have a moment.

Brendane Tynes  31:23

Another Aquarius queen.

Alyssa A.L. James  31:26

What! Hey, we are just gonna have to get a Gemini on here or something. [Laughter]

Brendane Tynes  31:32

I don’t know.

Alyssa A.L. James  31:37

I just, there is not enough time to talk about Angela Davis and do her life and her work justice. But we will try. So, Angela Davis is a political activist, author, and professor emerita at the University of California Santa Cruz. She received her PhD in philosophy from Humboldt University in Berlin. And when I read that, I was like, wow, like, in the last episode or two episodes ago, I was like “I don’t know any black philosophers.” My bad.

Brendane Tynes  32:06

Yeah it’s so interesting what is considered philosophy. I think it’s just another question.

Alyssa A.L. James  32:13

So she’s the author of over 10 books, including Women, Race, and Class, Are Prisons Obsolete? and Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of Movement. And she has recently, again, been named as one of Time 100’s Most Influential People.

Brendane Tynes  32:16

Yes. And I have had the pleasure of meeting her in-person. And like, I have a picture that I will hold on to for dear life.

Alyssa A.L. James  32:46

Girl, why is it not like printed and framed?

Brendane Tynes  32:49

I don’t know, Oh, actually, I might need to do that. Because I just, I was sitting so close to her too like, oh my gosh, I just, and she was like talking to me, she answered my questions. Oh, anyway. In this essay, which was published in 1983, Davis provides us with the history of the birth control movement, and she contextualizes why Black, Indigenous and other women of color, and working-class women were resistant to the birth control movement in the 1970s. And so she historicizes this movement by going back to slavery and saying enslaved Black women regularly used abortive and infanticidal techniques to avoid bringing another person into this world as a slave. And I know for some this might seem controversial, but we have to remember that abortion and birth control is a fundamental human right. Black enslaved women were not considered to be human beings with rights, and their bodies were exploited, and often used as breeding factories for the next generation of exploited labor. So one form of resistance against this was to stop, like this is this is a form of stopping labor, like reproductive labor is labor. And this was a form of them protesting against that labor by using abortion and infanticide to escape the horrors of slavery.

Alyssa A.L. James  34:16

Right. And, you know, she’s, she quotes different doctors and all of these, like old resources of people kind of documenting the lives of enslaved people. And so one of the things that I saw was there’s a doctor who was like documenting enslaved women, he said that they were, quote, destroying offspring. And just the way that it was described, you could tell that it was serving to further support his and other white people’s belief that Black people were less than human. And so they just couldn’t grasp that there were systemic political reasons for aborting your fetus. And those were like the oppressive conditions of slavery.

Brendane Tynes  35:00

It’s like, one plus one equal two, like.

Alyssa A.L. James  35:03

Nah not when—you know what, nevermind, I’m not gonna say that. But that incomprehensibility, it continued right up until the 70s, right. Like white women simply could not fathom why women of color wouldn’t unite around this issue. They kind of attributed their suspicions toward birth control to, like a certain irrationality rather than a history of genocide masquerading as birth control, right. So it’s just another way that these movements excluded the experiences of women of color and like, and reinforced that women’s liberation was only for white women.

Brendane Tynes  35:35

Yeah, I would say that, I guess my thing of like saying one plus one equals two is just like, you know, thinking about how I think people don’t really understand or grasp the horrors of slavery, and how in some ways, in some ways care work can mean, especially for people who have uteruses that choose to have, you know, or don’t want to have, like a child, bring a child into this world because of the horrors of slavery, like slavery was something that’s so horrible that I think our minds can’t even imagine. And so all that to say, like, when we think about the origins of the birth control movement, and the ways in which birth control has been employed or deployed in certain communities, it’s important to remember that conditions differ for different types of communities, especially those who experience necropolitical terror. 

Yeah, so if you’re thinking historically, which Davis is always thinking historically, she always reminds us, as a communist, as a Marxist scholar, she reminds us about materialism and thinking about the facts. And so, and I’m using air quotes, cuz you know, facts mean different things to different people. But she also continues by saying, after the emancipation of enslaved people, and with that, like concurrent growth in urban cities, white women began to advocate more strongly for the birth control movement, because they realized, “Okay, nobody trying to have all these kids in the city.” When it’s like, you know, that’s actually if you’re living in a tenement or something right, having 11 kids in a two-room tenement, it’s not, it’s not conducive to a good life. Whereas living on the plantation or living in a farm, you need children to do labor.

And so she talks about how these white women, most of them middle to upper class, start this birth control movement as a way to regain quality of life, and allow them to have better opportunities and more economic opportunities in these urban cities. But she also knows that the major failure of the mostly white and mostly middle-to-upper class birth control movement was this failure to recognize that Black women and other women of color have long histories with forced sterilization and other genocidal practices at the hands of the state. So in the 1970s, this movement was not willing, as you mentioned, right, is not willing to recognize that there’s actually an entire history that would cause Black and other women of color to be suspicious of this. And historically, right, this movement was deeply entangled with the eugenics movement, which advocated for the forced sterilization of unfit human beings for the good of the human race.

Alyssa A.L. James  38:35

Yeah, exactly. So what is eugenics? And so eugenics is a pseudoscience. It took Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection and grossly applied it to humans. And so essentially, it’s the philosophy and practice of how to arrange reproduction to increase the occurrence of desirable characteristics in a population but it’s also there to exclude inferior people from the gene pool, again using air quotes. And so they do this by breeding out—good Lord— by breeding out [Crosstalk] by breeding out disease, disability, and essentially difference, right? So they were just doing, they were on some, they’re on some wild stuff. Hitler got his eugenics ideas and techniques from America, let’s just put it that way.

Brendane Tynes  39:28

Yeah. The United States was definitely the blueprint for this and we’ll explain how and why. Um, yeah, so eugenics, really, if we boil it down, is kind of this lost understanding of cause and effect, right. It says that the most fit people are then the most genetically advanced people. And so these people, especially during that time period, were white middle-to-upper class people. And then the least fit were Black people because they didn’t have technological advances or other things. And so, eugenics argues that the wealth, longer life expectancy and better economic opportunities that white people experience is because of their genetic predisposition, as opposed to the systemic genocide and exploitation of people of color all over the world. And these ideas were like, basically imported into the birth control movement, and influenced it greatly. So what movement that initially started out as white women advocating for themselves to be able to control their reproductive lives, then morphed into a movement that dictated what Black and other people of color should and would be able to do. And so they formed, there were lots of racist organizations back in the day that did a lot of big things. And some of them founded colleges but that’s neither here nor there. So the American Birth Control League, called for birth control in Black communities, because Black people were the least fit population. We could not raise our kids, we were having kids all willy-nilly. And thus, that meant that we should not be able to reproduce freely.

Alyssa A.L. James  41:23

Yeah, the way that they described it, what was it that they said? That we were breeding carelessly and disastrously. Like what? It’s just like, I don’t—okay. And I think that the wildest thing about the eugenics movement at that time period was just that the characteristics that they were trying so hard to breed out, they weren’t biological or genetic. They were social. They were just like, oh, they live in ghettos because of this, or they live in poverty, because they are inferior people. And it’s like, no, they live in poverty, because of Jim Crow segregation, slavery, reconstruction, and all these other fucked up things that you did

Brendane Tynes  42:16

Right. And it’s like, the only reason why you don’t like you don’t live in poverty is because of all these fucked up things that you did. And so it’s such, yeah, reading this essay, it was just like really illuminating, because Davis does an artful job of really showing us how birth control and the birth control movement moves and morphs from being this initial place where you move from this, like, every person with a uterus has an individual right to birth control to becoming this racist strategy for population control. So we see this biopolitical/necropolitical politics at work. Birth control became a right for the rich, right, it became a right for the rich white women. But it became a duty for the poor. Like as Black women, they had a duty to society to control the number of people they had in their families. And this duty was actually state funded. And state-sanctioned, like Davis tells us and shows us this. So states all over the US instituted policies that called for the forced sterilization of these unfit populations. And they received federal funding to do so. Scores, hundreds of thousands of disabled folks, of Black folks, of poor folks, were targeted and Black women, especially, were targeted for these birth control strategies. So one example Davis gives us is that women who were on welfare, who had too many children, and it was like some doctors were like, if you have more than two children, you have too many children. They were forced to undergo sterilization in order to continue receiving their welfare checks. And one example that really, like, I was floored when reading was, [I] think these two Black girls and Montgomery, Alabama, Minnie Lee and Mary Alice, who were sterilized at the ages of 12 and 14. It’s just like, what, like a child like you literally took body parts out of a child.

Alyssa A.L. James  44:40

Yeah like you, you’ve taken their options and their choices away in regards to something that they didn’t even understand at the time. And her mother didn’t understand because she couldn’t read. And then they just said, put an X here. And she thought it was to continue the birth control that they were receiving

Brendane Tynes  44:59

Right, the control that later was discovered to cause significant health problems. So yeah, which is like dep- depro vera, I think

Alyssa A.L. James  45:08


Brendane Tynes  45:10

Depo-Provera and Depo might still be available on the market.

Alyssa A.L. James  45:14

It’s still out there, yeah. You just think that, like is there, is it any wonder that Black people are suspicious and skeptical of doctors and studies and of anything that the government tells them is good, tells us is good for us?

Brendane Tynes  45:32

Right? And it’s like, okay, y’all, I wanna be very clear about this, because I realize y’all’re like, we haven’t thrown any dates out there. But it’s not like this was happening in the 19th century, like, this was not happening 1890, nineteen you know, twenty, whatever. This was happening as late as 1972.

Alyssa A.L. James  45:56

Well, we’re gonna get even more recent than that.

Brendane Tynes  45:59

Yes, Davis. So Davis, talks about how and she provides the numbers for us, like in 1972, the US funded between 100,000 to 200,000 forced sterilizations. Like the federal government paid, put money in doctors’ pockets, for over 100,000 forced sterilizations.

Alyssa A.L. James  46:23

But but tell them, tell them the comparison. Okay. Like, “Oh, that’s not that bad.” Just listen.

Brendane Tynes  46:33

Mind you, this was one year: the Nazis sterilized 250,000 people over the course of their fascist regime. So the US sterilized almost as many people in one year that the Nazis, which we point to right, this fascist regime, as something that is truly horrible, right, over the course of their entire regime. So we gotta think about that, right, when we point to the Holocaust as this unfathomable event of genocide and terror—which it is, I want to affirm definitely that I agree it is—we have to remember that the US provided all the blueprint for that. The US was like, “Hey, here’s this eugenics thing. Why don’t you try it, why don’t you try it over there.”

Alyssa A.L. James  47:23

Yeah [the Nazis] came to study segregation, all the, you know, they basically came and just studied what the US was doing, and then replicated it, took it to whole new levels. Well, I should say, took it to a more obvious level.

Brendane Tynes  47:39

Yeah, like definitely used necropolitical techniques to exterminate groups of people who are deemed unfit. And so what we see now is, I would say, definitely, this is a reconceptualization of history that erases the US’s role in developing eugenics and developing necropolitical technologies that were exported all over the world, but were solidified and perfected through Black women’s bodies. But also, Davis points us to the violence that happened, the sterilization, violence that happened in Indigenous communities as well.

Alyssa A.L. James  48:22

Yeah, I mean, so. And we can’t, we can’t pretend that this was just an American thing, right? Canada has a documented history of the same. So between 1966 and 1976, more than 1000 Indigenous women were sterilized. Remember, the population of Canada is much smaller than the US’s. But in both countries, in the US and Canada, they did stop promoting sterilization policies, but they never made them illegal. And so in 2017, okay, three years ago, 60 Indigenous women in Saskatchewan, they launched a lawsuit for being pressured to sign consent forms for tubal ligation. It was almost like the exact same thing that that Davis talks about, people thought that they were reversible. You know, nobody was really clear about what it was that they were signing for. And so now they’re demanding damages and reform to the health care system. And so I’m never going to knock universal health care, because I think that it is so necessary, every country should have it. But what we see built into the system is the definition of systemic racism. So even if there are no racists, I’m sure none of the people who have them sign these consent forms would call themselves racist, the structure was still working against these Indigenous women. And so it means that racism isn’t just about bad people doing bad things, but through a history of colonization, you know, through Canada’s Sexual Sterilization Act, which was literally on the books, and these other eugenicist ideas, they kind of they shape structures and policies that we see today in health care, education and beyond. So these problems are built into the system itself. Although some people say that we can’t really, that systemic racism is too hard for us to understand. I just explained it.

Brendane Tynes  50:13

Woo. Woo, chile.

Alyssa A.L. James  50:15

That’s a subtweet y’all,

Brendane Tynes  50:16

It’s subtweet. And it’s like, yeah, like [Davis is] talking about these sterilizations that are federally funded and free, but abortion and birth control are not. So what you see is that the women, who are mostly white middle and upper class who are able to afford abortions and birth control, having access to them, while poor women, Black women, Indigenous women having to go through the route of the free option, which is permanent — you are not able to reproduce. And over time, right, that she talks about women in Puerto Rico, where that literally took out the possibilities for a generation of women in Puerto Rico.

Alyssa A.L. James  51:01

That really threw me off. I was just, they were basically, I don’t remember who it was that did the research, but Davis writes about them in the article, which is that if this if this kind of like level of sterilization continues for, it was maybe 10 years, there would be no more Puerto Ricans. Just what?

Brendane Tynes  51:27

Yeah, and it’s like this is horror. It’s like, it’s literally terrorizing and it’s horror. And it’s real. And it’s happening. It’s still happening.

Alyssa A.L. James  51:37

Yeah. I mean, and a lot of it comes from, is money. It’s related to money, right. So we see that issue about the federally funded sterilizations in Canada too. So the federal government pays for certain First Nations health benefits, like birth control, but then the provinces they pay for surgery and procedures. So when doctors perform hysterectomies or tubal ligations, the province actually makes money, and then the federal government doesn’t have to pay for the birth control anymore. So it’s like, it’s a win-win. Except for the people for whom it affects. It’s messed up.

Brendane Tynes  52:17

Yo. Why is the world so fucked up? I just was like, wow. No, speaking of things that happened today. I think we should move to our What in the World?! Like, girl what?  What in the world is happening? Among all the other things that are happening right now. And this kind of low key feels like old news, low key! Considering all the things that happened this week? [Laughter]

Alyssa A.L. James  52:53

Jeez, I know. We. you know, we’re a biweekly podcast, we do what we can.

Brendane Tynes  53:02

But we have to give this attention. We have to. Yeah, go ahead.

Alyssa A.L. James  53:10

So everyone is talking about ICE and immigration detention. And we’re gonna get to why, of course. I’m just gonna say it: the mass hysterectomies, we’re going to talk about that. But I want to spill the real tea. Which is that in past years, the images of cages and detention centers full of brown children and adults were being disseminated. I actually learned that almost half of the families in ICE detention are Haitian. They’re Black. And this is not an image that you see on the news, like you don’t, you don’t see Black people in immigration detention, you just assume that they are all from South [and] Central American countries. And actually, a lot of them are Caribbean and African. And I was super surprised about this. And I remember when the uprisings were just happening. And there were some Latinx folkx tweeting, “Oh, where were, you know, why are we standing up for Black people? Where were they when, you know, our children were being put in cages?” And I was just like, “Oh, I don’t know, climbing up the up the Statue of Liberty in protest.” [Crosstalk]

Brendane Tynes  54:32

But also, sitting right there with yo’ kids in detention so.

Alyssa A.L. James  54:36


Brendane Tynes  54:37

And are not visible because, I mean, do our images elicit sympathy and outrage?

Alyssa A.L. James  54:44

Hmm, exactly. So I think that it’s just, and it blows my mind that white supremacy means that people in power can take something that is already deplorable and then make it absolute shit for Black people. How do y’all do that?!

Brendane Tynes  55:08

How do y’all consistently make the bar hell, like, for black folks? Like how? how? And it’s like, you know what, I’m not gonna say what I was gonna say because I was gonna be like…Anyway.

Alyssa A.L. James  55:22

The bar is below the floor and they keep lowering it. But it’s just like, okay, so one because of overpolicing in Black communities, Black immigrants are at a higher risk of deportation to the longest ICE records on ICE detentions on record, are for Black people. And there was one that was nearly 10 years, a Rwandan person. Ten years! And so, because apparently they launched these investigations into African immigrants’ documents and they take forever. And also, freedom is more expensive for Black people. So bonds are actually 54% higher for Haitians than the average. So they actually have been staying in detention while others may be released on bond.

Brendane Tynes  56:11

Yo, what the hell. What the hell. Yo

Alyssa A.L. James  56:16

And then, and then immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean are deeply overrepresented in solitary confinement. So they make up 4% of the people in ICE detention. But they are represented, at least this was between, I believe…I can’t remember the years but I think it was up until 2017. So they were—but they represent 24% of all of the solitary confinements. And we all know, we know from people like Kalief Browder, that solitary confinement is the worst form of torture, is one of the worst forms of torture out there. I’m pretty sure that like UN conventions recognize it as a form of torture. So this is just another example of necropower, right, the camp form. And we can think about, like, these camps as also being ghettos, refugee camps, prisons, they’re a way of controlling undesirables, right. And it allows for a militarized state to control and harass and kill people. And it means that certain groups of people disenfranchise people, marginalized people, we live in a permanent condition of living in pain, which is also necropolitical, right.

Brendane Tynes  57:39

Right. Right. And it’s—chile, the small and large forms of death again. And so this document, there’s documents on the ICE website, where they actually removed people whose origins were unknown, so they are actually detaining people. And there’s no knowledge of if they’re actually, like, where they’re actually from. So there’s no way to actually deport them to anywhere, because it’s like, you know, where they gonna go? But like, it’s also just like, “Where did they go?” Cuz they were removed.

Alyssa A.L. James  58:14

It said that they were removed. So I’m like, so where, where did they go? Like you just send them to? You’re like, “Oh, well, it kind of sounds like he has a French accent. So he must be from one of the French-speaking West African countries” and you just send them there?!

Brendane Tynes  58:33

Yeah. And it’s like, this is also ridiculous, because most of the people who are living in the US past like, undocumented, are folks who overstayed visas from like countries of like Europe and certain countries in Asia. But these are people who are not targeted. For this type of…

Alyssa A.L. James  58:58

I was looking at the numbers. There were over 300 Canadians removed in one year. There were four Swiss people one year. I was like, “Swiss people are out here overstaying visas and shit, committing crimes on your visas.” I mean, obviously, the numbers are nowhere near, you know, people from African, Central, and South American countries and Caribbean countries. But I was surprised at the numbers nevertheless. Which is also an interesting thing to look into within myself. Like, why is it that I expected these certain numbers to be high and then other numbers not to exist, right?

Brendane Tynes  59:14

I mean, I think it speaks to an understanding of the system and how it operates and who it protects and who it doesn’t protect, and even—I don’t know, maybe I’m imagining things but I feel like there was, wasn’t there a call put out at one point in time where they were like, “Oh, if you need to renew your visas, and you’re from this, this, and this country, make sure you do it like, you know, no penalty or something. I don’t know, maybe that’s my imagination. Sometimes I dream things that don’t actually happen. But I remember learning that and learning about domestic violence for immigrant women and how often it is for them to—they come over 90-Day Fiancé–style and into a lot of domestic violence. And so, yeah, just learning about the politics of like green cards and stuff like that. But most of the people who are here, and they are undocumented, or just overstay or I mean, and we know there are people who are fleeing violence and Haitian people are like the second most denied folks for asylum. And so, the first being people from Mexico. And so it’s just like, how these racist, anti-Black, like necropolitical politics just weave themselves in and out of this government institution. Which, mind you, is not, has not always been here. Like, ICE is not something that we can’t, we can just be like, “Oh, it’s always been here, like the Constitution” and people can’t seem to imagine letting the Constitution go. But it’s just like, ICE is not in the Constitution. ICE was created literally in this century. Like right after 9/11. So like we can, we can do away with this. But…

Alyssa A.L. James  59:47

The world survived without it.

Brendane Tynes  1:01:32

I mean yes, not only survive, but it would just be just so much better of a place. And so, woo chile, so I want to applaud Dawn Wooten in this moment. I’m clapping for you.

Alyssa A.L. James  1:01:51

Same. We both are.

Brendane Tynes  1:01:54

Who is a Black nurse who was working at an ICE facility in Atlanta, and she did what Black women always do, right, which is she rang the motherfucking alarm on some injustice. And she let the world know that mass hysterectomies were being performed in these ICE detention centers, which we now know house a disproportionate number of Black people. Just wow. And she must be protected like

Alyssa A.L. James  1:02:27

Absolutely. Black women, we stay throwing our bodies onto grenades that other people be taking the pins out of. And I think that there’s just so much in these allegations. I was reading about, you know, about the reports and people were putting excerpts up of the report and all of this of the allegations and stuff and I mean, there were allegations of detainees drinking out of toilets, this lack of medical care and food is like, it’s disgusting to the point of being unbelievable, but then it’s also very believable. One of the articles I was reading, they took a quote out of the complaint that Dawn Wooten made and she said that “We’ve questioned among ourselves like goodness he’s taking everybody’s stuff out…That’s his specialty, he’s the uterus collector. I know that’s ugly…is he collecting these things or something…Everybody he sees, he’s taking all their uteruses out or he’s taken their tubes out. What in the world?” End quote. They called the doctor The Uterus Collector. Like what in the M. Night Shyamalan?

Brendane Tynes  1:03:43

What in the J. Marion Sims? What in the

Alyssa A.L. James  1:03:47

What in the Jordan Peele?

Brendane Tynes  1:03:50

Yeah, like this is actually probably a film for like…yeah, this is like could be a film plot. They could do so much better than Antebellum. I just wanted to throw that out, anyway. So

Alyssa A.L. James  1:04:04

I’ve been told to watch it so

Brendane Tynes  1:04:06

Don’t, don’t, it’s literally it’s so horrible that I, when I heard the uterus collector, I was just like, wow, like, unfathomable violence. But still, it exists and it’s real. And it’s justified because we have a culture in this country—I use “we” loosely, okay, very loosely, because I don’t believe this—but just like that, there are people who are literally undesirable and disposable, and we have the right to like, take away their ability to reproduce. And it’s like, not all of these women were going to be target[ed], who were targeted and who this violence was exacted on, not all of them probably wanted to have children or like, you know, like, it’s like literally the choice is being taken away. And I think also for me, though…I was shocked, but like, not really. And I feel like there were people, though, who were like, “What, this is a thing?! This is happening?!”

Alyssa A.L. James  1:05:13

Yeah, you know, they’re like, “It’s 2020, I can’t believe that these things are happening.” And it’s like, “Yeah, no, this isn’t anything new.” Like this is, the United States is a country that has failed to reckon with its history. Why would you expect anything different? Like, to me, the shock, and I’m not talking about your shock, but it’s a particular like white liberal shock that I find staggering. It’s like, I’m really getting on board with kind of refusing that, that shock from from white liberals, because it’s just like, their surprise is actually more ethnographically—here I go, being a nerd—but like, is more ethnographically interesting than the actual events, like the events themselves, such as racism and sterilization abuse? You know, it’s like, of course, when the most vulnerable people are unprotected from state-sanctioned violence, and there are no checks and balances for a structure of power, how could you expect anything else? Like why is it, what allows you to be surprised? Like what allows this white innocence?

Brendane Tynes  1:06:19

Right? Whiteness studies people? What is it, what is it because it’s like this innocence, that partly structures what it means to be white. Whereas there’s a sort, there’s a certain type of knowing that comes with being Black, right? Like there’s a certain knowing that even if I have not heard this story about this type of violence happening, you know, as my, as my church folk would say, like my spirit knew, you know. Like, even if I don’t know in the flesh, like my spirit knew, right. And so, it’s I don’t know, it’s just so horrible to me. But I it makes me think about the quote that you said in a previous episode from Joy James and—ooh, I’m gonna mispronounce the name, oh, man—João Vargas. Y’all, my Southern education. And so, where they talk about like, this shock around anti-Black violence and moving past that to really thinking about anti-Blackness, as literally underpinning these systems right. Once we, like if we can move past the shock, and I’m not saying like, move past understanding or thinking about things as horrible.

Alyssa A.L. James  1:07:34

Yeah, it doesn’t mean numb yourself.

Brendane Tynes  1:07:36

It doesn’t mean numb yourself. It means moving past this, like performance and presentation of shock and like investing all of this emotional energy in an outrage. That could be redirected towards, you know, some type of political…I don’t even know what to say. But like, some kind of political resistance, I guess, is what I’m saying. And so I think, and I tweeted this, like, I think we spend so much energy being shocked when the systems do exactly what they’re supposed to do. And it’s like, we were expecting justice, in regards to, you know, Breonna Taylor, like expecting justice, quote, unquote, from the same system that killed her that doesn’t make sense. But it also speaks to a kind of like, hope, or, you know, some would say cruel optimism, possibly, right, where it’s like, we know and we see the state and all of its horrors and what it does. And there’s still a belief that if we open ourselves up enough and we appeal enough that it’ll change. And it’s like, actually, the state thrives on us being open, it thrives on us being exploited, it thrives on us having like this mass shock and outrage because we’re immobilized, so like we can’t move past it to do something else. But we also have to find ways to to grieve as well in these moments, and like, also stand with these women. And one of the things that I also thought about was like, the outrage around the ICE mass sterilizations died pretty quickly once the information got out about who actually gets detained in the centers. Once a lot of people—similar to what happened with COVID—once people were like, Oh, wait, these centers actually really house niggas, like, oh, okay. And then it was kind of just like, oh, okay. But I think it’s important for us, especially as Black feminists, those of us who are activists, those of us who are scholars, who are thinkers, right, to remember and keep at the forefront of our mind that mass sterilization, along with abortion, along with birth control, right, all of these are reproductive issues that primarily affect Black and/or Indigenous populations, and we have to think about like who is going to fight for us, if not we ourselves, right? Like we—and the answer is we ourselves got to take up the arms, pick up them arms, literal, you know, I’m not saying literally, if that’s not your thing, but like, we have to fight for ourselves, and we have to organize and change this world, because it’s not going to change for us, right. We have to change it.

Alyssa A.L. James  1:10:22

Thinking of scholars and all of these ideas that float around, I think one of them is overpopulation and climate change, and I kinda wish that we had gotten to this in our Anthropocene episode, but I’m kind of glad that we’re able to fit this in here, but the way that people talk about overpopulation as being one of the main drivers and like the hardest-to-fix problem in relation to climate change. And so it’s just…overpopulation is a distraction, it’s a way to deflect the conversation from capitalism, it’s a dog whistle for a racist narrative that says Black and brown people are having too many children. So here we go again to this like biopolitical necropolitical, you know, technology, which is the overpopulation discourse. And then you know, but if you like, read into it, if you’re really like, “Alright, let me go do my research” which not enough people do, as I found out while watching the Social Dilemma. Second plug, we need to—Netflix, hit us up, alright? Get us on that strong Black lead page. Okay, thanks. So, you know, how is it that overpopulation is exacerbating the climate crisis, when the world’s richest 1% contributes double the amount of carbon dioxide emissions than 50% of the world’s poorest? Again, 1% of the world’s richest, twice the amount of emissions than 50% of the world’s poorest.

Brendane Tynes  1:12:07

Burn it down.

Alyssa A.L. James  1:12:11

It’s like the reason that there aren’t enough resources for people on the planet is because a small group of people are fucking hoarding them.

Brendane Tynes  1:12:21

Okay, period. [On] peridot.

Alyssa A.L. James  1:12:24

I am going to say the thing that Greta Thunberg can’t say lest she lose her platform, because nobody who wants to be taken seriously on a global stage can utter the C word: the problem is capitalism. And the problem is consumption. Okay, and the rich in this study, like the world’s richest 1% that they’re talking about, it isn’t who we you know, you and I people listening to this podcast might think of as rich. To count as the 1% in that study, you only need to be earning $100,000 a year. Okay, so

Brendane Tynes  1:12:59

[Laughter] Yo, yeah, cuz you know, the yachts, and the [Crosstalk]

Alyssa A.L. James  1:13:07

It’s literally the hoarding of resources, okay? Capitalist accumulation is one of the major drivers of climate change. So don’t have people be like, “Oh my god, no, it’s all the people in Africa and all the people in India having all these babies.” No

Brendane Tynes  1:13:23

I love this. I love this voice.

Alyssa A.L. James  1:13:27

All this is, all it is—I’m going on my rant now—but like all this is are these like, Malthusian ideas in a new outfit. And so, what the hell is Malthusian? So basically, it was this guy in like the 19th century and he argued that a population will always outgrow its resources. And he said that there are two ways to check a population. First is preventative checks. So things like postponing marriage or using birth control. And the other side is, you know, the positive check. So positive checks. And he doesn’t mean positive as an as a good, he means positive as in like something that is added rather than taken away, right. So you think, yeah, I was gonna get into some like Pavlovian stuff that I

Brendane Tynes  1:14:12

I was like, oh, you gettin’ fancy on us

Alyssa A.L. James  1:14:15

Adding, rather than taking away, the positive checks would be things like famine, disease, and war. And so this kind of like Malthusian idea was really made clear when people were like, “Oh, yeah, COVID is, it’s just, you know, COVID and all these people dying, it’s just the planet’s way of getting itself back into equilibrium.” What! No it isn’t! It’s a necropolitical mismanagement of crisis, not some kind of poetic justice launched by Earth. End rant.

Brendane Tynes  1:14:49

Yo, I’m glad you got that out there in the world. I, I’m just shook because at the end of the day, and also that’s like the overpopulation argument is what they use for immigration as well, right? It’s like this exhaustion of resources through the influx of certain types of people. So some people are good, right? Some people are good to immigrate. And they add, quote unquote, something, whereas Haitian people, people from Central [and] South America, certain countries in Central and South America, for sure, the browner ones for sure, are labeled as people who drain resources, and so they must be expelled. Or what’s happening, right, is detained so that they can do some form of labor or be tortured in some way, which is just horrible. And I feel like, I dunno, I just feel like so much of what you just said resonated with me. And so I’m sitting with that like, first of all, gosh, this shit just gotta burn down, like all of it, just gotta burn down, like, it’s gotta burn down.

Alyssa A.L. James  1:16:03

But on a lighter note, we did want to talk about 90-Day Fiancé in the What the World?! section. We never got around to elaborating it, but both of us watch it. And I think one of the things that—I mean, and you did talk about like coming over 90-Day Fiancé–style and experience domestic violence—but you know, on a lighter note, I just I always find it really fascinating. The way that the Americans treat the spouses as though marrying them is a golden ticket to Charlie’s Chocolate Factory. [Laughter]

Brendane Tynes  1:16:43

And then maybe again, one of those people that need to be defunded because they are actually blockheaded and don’t have like…I’m not up on like the new seasons. But honey, honey Paul and Karine honey? Oh, honey. Paul, you not—okay, wait, no. Paul, you are broke, but also like, what is his generational wealth because it’s not cheap to get to like fill out the visa and get people over here

Alyssa A.L. James  1:17:20

No, exactly Oh, what is his name? But in this new season his mom cut him off. So she—so he actually came back to the US with Karine and their son. And his mom was like, “No, you can’t stay with us. Because I know if you stay with us, you’re never gonna leave.” He takes [his wife Karine] to Walmart and he’s like, “Look at this. You can get two for one, two for one pack of diapers.” And she’s like, “No, Paul. No, we don’t need that many diapers. Like, just get the one, we’re broke. We have no money.” And he’s like, “But it’s two for one if you buy 10.” And she’s like, “No!” No, what free? So they’re always treating America like, like it’s the—there was one season with this really, it was a really weird couple. But she was a singer and she was 18. And her fiancé was 26 and he was from Spain. I can’t I can’t remember their names.

Brendane Tynes  1:18:22

The fundamentalist Christian one. Oh my gosh

Alyssa A.L. James  1:18:26

Yeah. But her parents seemed like hippies. I was so confused.

Brendane Tynes  1:18:29

But her parents are also very young, too.

Alyssa A.L. James  1:18:32

Yes. But they got it, so they got into an argument and she was just like, “You’re in America! You should feel like you’re living the American dream. You’re lucky to be here.” And he’s like, “You know where I’m from? I’m from Spain.” He said, “We have free education and health care.” Like, what are you on about lady? Like, I’m doing you a favor by being in this weird ass town in this fucked up old country in…

Brendane Tynes  1:18:58

In the middle of nowhere New England. So many things to be said about the way that really just for me, it’s just like, oh—we talked about this last episode—like this fetishization of these women and I don’t know if you saw like, I think these women in particular. So the men who are from the US who, like, fetishize women in other countries. There was the one with the Black man who was balding who—okay, and I’m sorry y’all, that was just what I noticed from him. I really can’t remember his name, all I remember is that his hairline is disappearing—And he was like, “Oh, Asian women. Those are the ones for me. You know, eff my baby mama, because.” And his baby mama was black, of course, but it’s just like, “You know, my baby mama, she was this, she was that. But I got me a good little Asian girl now and she listens to me.” Honey, Ro-wait, no, that’s Rosa’s somebody else—she was not listening. She was not listening to him. She was like, “Wait, you ain’t got no money?” You came over here, you can’t, you know, pay this dowry. You can’t do this, that, and the third?”

Alyssa A.L. James  1:20:11

The way that the men be just like, they glorify the US, they fetishize the US, and then a lot of the fiancés they come over and they’re like, “Hang on, this is not the America that I was imagining” cuz they’re in like Colstonburgtown, Pennsylvania—I just made that up.

Brendane Tynes  1:20:31

Yeah living in the third room in their Mama’s house.

Alyssa A.L. James  1:20:35

Exactly, or in a trailer park, or like, just in these situations where it’s, it’s not the American dream. Some of them don’t have jobs. So at home just, ugh. It is, it is awful, it is absolutely awful.

Brendane Tynes  1:20:54

It’s so awful. I feel like though…90-Day Fiancé, someone should do ethnographic study on it. And think about like—I mean, do it all race, gender, national identity, just run through it all and think about the way that statehood functions like in these areas. Because these people, these Americans who really don’t have it good on this side, but like will pretend to be this type of provider when they go overseas. Yeah, it just, I don’t know. Something about masculinity there for somebody who wants to write about it? I would prefer to just watch it. [Laughter]

Alyssa A.L. James  1:21:46

I know, I feel like every couple could be its own essay, could be its own journal article. It’s just

Brendane Tynes  1:21:52

The one thing I was going to say is like, this power dynamic, too. So in the domestic violence thing, like that power dynamic of this person can’t get a job. They can’t really do much because their visa doesn’t allow them to do so. It’s just, you see it really play out in the show. So if you would like to join the conversation about 90-Day Fiancé, please watch the show. Or if you already watch it, you know, let us know give us a shout out on Twitter be like, “Oh, I watch 90-Day Fiancé and I have these thoughts. And you know, maybe a [winter] bonus episode about our [Crosstalk]

Alyssa A.L. James  1:22:32

I was gonna say, I was like, if you want an episode about it. I think that would actually be dope. Like, you know, we can, we’ll have a little fun but we can also contextualize it in the same way that we contextualize all the other wild shit happened in the world. But anyhow, I think this was a fantastic episode. So thank you all for listening. I’m sure that you enjoyed it. So if you did hear something that you loved, makes you laugh, helps you rethink something, made you question yourself or the world around you, then there are three things you can do. One, if you can spare some coin, donate to us at to make a one-time or recurring contribution. Two, you can subscribe, rate, and review the episode and share it on social media. Or three, all of the above.

Brendane Tynes  1:23:24

Yes, we welcome all the love. And if you’d like to follow us on social media, start a conversation about this episode, or send us ideas for future episodes, you can find us at zorasdaughters on Instagram and @zoras_daughters on Twitter and head to to find transcripts for the episodes, our bios, contact info, and ways to support the podcast.

Alyssa A.L. James  1:23:49

Thank you, Brendane. Thank you me. And thank you all. Be kind to yourselves. Bye!

Brendane Tynes  1:23:56


[Outro music ends][Recording ends]

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