I N T R O D U C T I O N
P L A S T I C B O D I E S
In June 1975 the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Antonio Express ran articles
on a young Brazilian scientist’s research on hormonal contraceptives. “I
have declared a war on menstruation,” Elsimar Coutinho, the Brazilian sci-
entist, told the Chronicle, “his dark eyes flashing.” The press coverage ap-
peared in the wake of a meeting of the World Health Organization (who)
task force on fertility regulation held in Texas. Coutinho told the Chronicle:
“Before, we thought that lack of menstruation was a bad side effect of the
long- term contraceptive pill. Now I consider it the main good effect (sic).”
The Express reported that “he has patients in Brazil who have not had a men-
strual cycle in 10 years.” Coutinho is a polemical and highly mediatized doc-
tor. Professor of human reproduction at the Federal University of Bahia’s
medical school in Salvador da Bahia (in northeastern Brazil), and director of
a private research center and clinic called ceparh (the Centre for Research
and Assistance in Human Reproduction), Coutinho derived much prestige
from the international networks he partook in throughout the 1970s and
1980s. Manica (2009) shows how he gained considerable local legitimacy
through his international connections with institutions such as the Ford
Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Population Council, and who, while
opening up research hospitals (and their attending populations) in a stra-
tegic region for these institutions interested in the “population problem.”
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