In the Garden of Puériculture: Cultivating the Ideal French Infant in Real and Imagined Landscapes of Care (1895–1935) | Gina Greene
This essay examines the architectural, visual, and imagined therapeutic landscapes of puériculture, a science of infant rearing developed by French obstetrician Adolphe Pinard in 1895 amid fears of depopulation, infant mortality, and racial degeneration in France. Puériculture, a French neologism establishing a rough linguistic equivalence between agricultural cultivation of the land and the scientific cultivation of human nurslings was, by the early twentieth century, widely diffused across France, parts of Western Europe, and South America. Comprised primarily of an uncontroversial program of prenatal and well-baby care, it had two principal domains of action. One was spatial, as the examination and rehabilitation of bodies of infants and childbearing women required the development of an architectural infrastructure of prenatal clinics, sterilized milk depots, centers for infant hygiene, crèches, and well-baby consults. One was educative, as pedagogical tracts instructed women on breastfeeding, proper methods of infant care, and other hygienic matters. It also, however, in its focus on human fecundity, and matters of “soil and seed” fueled eugenic and pronatalist fantasies that engaged not only with the rational clinic, but with broader imaginative geographies of colonial empires, docile female bodies, and aseptic factories for French babies.
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