Laparoscopy as a technology of population control: a use-centered history of surgical sterilization

Jesse Olszynko-Gryn

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Bombay gynecologist Pravin Mehta “peered through” the laparoscope, a “stainless- steel probe with a pistol grip and a light source.” He located and grasped a fallopian tube “in the instrument’s crab- like claw and, squeezing a trigger, snapped a plastic ring over the captured tube, making a tight ligature, rather in the manner of a stapler.” 1 When the second tube was similarly ligated, Mehta invited Times correspondent Trevor Fishlock to “look through the laparoscope at his handiwork, at the tube tied neater than a sailor’s reef knot.” 2 It was May 1981 and the tubes belonged to Manbhar, a thirty-year-old mother of two sons and one girl who had “walked six miles across the desert to have herself sterilized” at a makeshift clinic or “camp” set up in a school sixty miles south of Jaipur, Rajasthan. She had heard about a new operation performed by a “magic telescope” that was “so quick and efficient that she would be back in time to cook the evening meal and could be working next day in the fields.” 3 Since the heyday of population control in the 1970s, 4 millions of women like Manbhar have been sterilized by the scope, making tubal ligation (or tubectomy) the most prevalent form of contraception worldwide. 5 In India and other countries, tubal ligation is often known simply as “the operation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA World of Populations
Subtitle of host publicationThe Production, Transfer, and Application of Demographic Knowledge in the Twentieth Century in Transnational Perspective
EditorsHeinrich Hartmann, Corinna Unger
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-78238-428-1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2014


  • surgical sterilization
  • population control
  • laparoscopy


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