Reproductive Health Histories
Reproductive health has fuelled some of the greatest debates and opinions in recent years. Rising inflation and cost of living has led many to speculate about the impact the current economic climate is having on family planning. Reproductive health issues came to political center stage in 2022 with the overturning of federal abortion protections in the United States, and emerging technologies like the male birth control pill and breast cancer vaccine further catapulted reproductive medicine and sexual health into popular consciousness. This working group provides a space for scholars to come together to think about how present-day issues and personal experiences influence our work in reproductive health history. In addition to shining a light on new directions in the field, we invite reflections on the ethics and practices that guide our research as well as on how historical narratives can be better used to advance gender and reproductive rights.
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Thursday, January 18, 2024 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm EST
Taking ‘Patient’ Histories
This session will focus on how scholars can engage with ‘patient’ narratives in both oral testimonies and archival records responsibly, in ways that avoid replicating medicalization and pathologization.
Thursday, February 15, 2024 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm EST
This meeting will reckon with the value and challenges of using oral history as a source in humanities and social science research on reproduction.
Thursday, March 21, 2024 12:00 pm EDT
This session will examine the history and future trends of researching and writing about reproductive technologies.
Thursday, April 18, 2024 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm EDT
Gender, Masculinity and Reproduction
Here, we will explore how gender and masculinity shapes how we think about human reproductive experiences and the histories we write about them.
Thursday, May 16, 2024 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm EDT
Reproducing History: Writing Histories of the Personal
This session will focus on how historians have used their own healthcare experiences to complement and inform their research and advocacy work.
November 16, 2023
In this session, we will grapple with reproductive politics and injustices and discuss how academic scholarship has and can continue to be used to advance reproductive rights and social justice.
To help anchor our discussions, we invite participants to read and reflect on the following three pieces:
- Dána-Ain Davis, "Radical Black Birth Workers." In Reproductive Injustice: Racism, Pregnancy and Premature Birth, 169-197. New York: NYU Press, 2019.
- lIana Löwy and Marilena Cordeiro Dias Villela Corrêa, "The “Abortion Pill” Misoprostol in Brazil: Women’s Empowerment in a Conservative and Repressive Political Environment," American Journal of Public Health, 110 no.5 (2020): 677-684.
- Ilana Löwy, "Fetuses: Women, Doctors and the Law," in Viruses and Reproductive Injustice: Zika in Brazil. Baltimore: JHU Press, Forthcoming 2024.*
We will be joined by Ilana Löwy (CERMES 3, Paris) who will participate in group conversations and offer commentary on her piece.
*For this session, Ilana has generously offered to share a chapter from her very exciting (and relevant) new book: Viruses and Reproductive Injustice: Zika in Brazil. Since this book is not yet published, this piece has not been uploaded to the CHSTM website. Instead, interested readers can get hold of a copy by emailing Jennifer Fraser (email@example.com) or one of our other working group convenors directly. All other readings can be accessed via this session's downloadable ZIP file (below).
October 19, 2023
Reproducing History: Writing Histories of the Present
This session will foreground contemporary discussions about the role of presentism in history and examine how present-day ideas and perspectives have and continue to inform how we think and write about reproductive health.
As prompts, we invite participants to read and reflect on the following essays:
1) Regina Markell Morantz, "The Perils of Feminist History," The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 4, no.4 (1974): 649-660.
2) Emily Baughan, "Reading Penelope Leach in Lockdown," PLAYGROUP Substack, 11 April 2023.
This week we will be joined by Emily Baughan (University of Sheffield) who will participate in group discussions and offer commentary on her piece.
September 21, 2023
Introductions and Overview of Working Group Program
In this introductory session, we will reflect on the role that history plays in present-day conversations about reproductive health. To stimulate conversations, we encourage participants to read one of the following pre-selected news articles:
- Samira K. Mehta and Lauren MacIvor Thompson, "The Supreme Court’s abortion decision is based on a myth. Here’s why." June 24, 2022.
- Billy Briggs, "US Christian right ‘dark money’ backed anti-abortion Glasgow students." March 28, 2019.
- Peggy O’Donnell Heffington, "Don’t want a baby because of climate fears? You’re not alone." 19 April 2023.
We will also provide an overview of the reading group's schedule, discuss future directions, and gauge participant interest in potential collaborative outputs. We would also like to use this time for participants to get to know each other.
To facilitate introductions, we invite participants to share excerpts of their work related to the working group theme. These pieces (either academic, or more public facing) should be submitted to Dr. Jennifer Fraser (firstname.lastname@example.org). All excerpts submitted by September 18, 2023, will be circulated to the larger group in advance of the first meeting.
Agnes is an interdisciplinary historian of science, medicine, healthcare, and the emotions. She is a Chancellor’s Fellow in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh and has researched the history of cancer, the women’s health movement, the emotional dynamics of healthcare labour, surgery and the surgical identity, vaccine hesitancy and public health, the NHS, and patient complaint. She co-runs the Healthy Scepticism project and is a co-investigator on the CIHR-funded project: Pelvic Health & Public Health in Twentieth Century Canada. Her first book, The Cancer Problem was published by OUP in 2021; her co-edited collection, Feelings and Work in Modern History came out with Bloomsbury in 2022; her second monograph, Cold, Hard Steel: The Myth of the Modern Surgeon, is being published by MUP later in 2023; and her third, Nostalgia: A Biography, is forthcoming with Picador in 2024. She is now working on a new project, exploring the recent history of health activism, scepticism, and medical mistrust in the United Kingdom.
Jennifer is a historian of health, gender and global chronic disease epidemiology who recently completed her PhD at the University of Toronto’s Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. She is a member of the Wellcome Trust-funded project “Cartographies of Cancer: Epidemiologists and Malignancies in Sub-Saharan Africa” at King’s College London’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine. She is also an Associated Medical Services Fellow, where she is pursuing a study of the global politics of hyperemesis gravidarm, a condition that affected her profoundly during her first pregnancy. Her work has been featured in Technology and Culture, Science in Context, the Canadian Bulletin for Medical History, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and History of the Human Sciences, as well as in the edited collection: Historical Explorations of Modern Epidemiology: Patterns, Populations and Pathologies.
Karissa is a historian of gender, sexuality, health, and activism in the late 20th century. She’s an interdisciplinary Research Fellow at the Centre for Biomedicine, Self and Society at the University of Edinburgh, where she’s studying the comparative history of reproductive activism and healthcare in Canada and the United Kingdom from 1967 to the 1980s. She is a co-investigator on the CIHR-funded project: Pelvic Health & Public Health in Twentieth Century Canada. Her most recent work on the history of the self-exam as a feminist health practice, collaborating with Whitney Wood, can be found in the Canadian Historical Review. Her doctoral work at the University of Saskatchewan and MA work at the University of Lethbridge examined the history of local birth control centres in Southern Alberta. Some of this work is featured in her co-edited collection, Bucking Conservatism (open access). More of her work can be found in the Canadian Journal of Health History and the edited collection Compelled to Act.
Dr. Whitney Wood is a historian of gender, health, and the body, in 19th and 20th century Canada, with a focus on cultural and medical representations of obstetric and gynecological pain. Her work has appeared in Social History of Medicine, Medical Humanities, and the Canadian Bulletin of Medical History, in addition to a number of edited collections. She is currently working on a study entitled, Changing Childbirth in Postwar Canada, 1945-2000, funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Development Grant, and is principal investigator of a new multi-year collaborative study, Pelvic Health and Public Health in Twentieth Century Canada, funded by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Project Grant.