The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the earliest times to the present day. In this week’s post Rachel Botha considers the visual representations of mothers in debates surrounding abortion.
The Disembodied Mother: the representation of motherhood in the visual
culture surrounding the abortion debate.
According to the Eighth Amendment in the Constitution of Ireland the right to life of the unborn is equal to the right to life of the mother. This legislation is ultimately transferred to the visual culture that surrounds the brewing debate of abortion in Ireland. In this piece I shall be honing in on the impact of visualising the foetus, and how it essentially disembodies the pregnant woman to exaggerate ‘life’- the life of the foetus as a separate entity to the mother.
The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the medieval to the modern. Today’s post from Leanne Calvert explores men’s roles in childbirth in the nineteenth century.
What about fathers? Men and childbirth: some evidence from nineteenth-century Ulster.
Every week, millions of us tune into Channel 4’s One Born Every Minute –the fly-on-the-wall documentary series that follows midwives and expectant mothers in maternity wards across Britain and Ireland. The unlikely star of the show, however, can be found standing next to the hospital bed –the expectant father. In any given episode, fathers can be seen nervously fidgeting and pacing, holding their partners’ hands, and encouraging them as they puff through each contraction. Many fathers are present at the time of delivery and some even cut the umbilical cord. Such scenes have become commonplace in contemporary society. Today, fathers are a visible presence in the delivery room and, with the increasing availability of paternity leave, are much more involved in early childcare than previous generations of men. But, just how modern is this conception of fatherhood? What role did fathers in past centuries play in childbirth?
Congratulations to Mark Benson on winning the Perceptions of Pregnancy book giveaway. Mark’s choice of blog post was Laura Neff’s post on Missing Mothers. Maternal deaths in the United States.
Mark is a final year PhD researcher at Queen’s University, Belfast examining a history of ‘the provision of abortion in Northern Ireland, 1900-1968’. Supervised by historian Professor Mary O’Dowd and sociologist Dr Lisa Smyth, the project uses medical archives and court records to explore the changing landscape of legal, illegal and ‘discreetly’ legal procedures sought out by women and their partners.
In addition to the above, he works as a tutor with QUB’s social inclusion department, the widening participation unit. The WPU focuses on A level students from low income backgrounds who are categorised as ‘those most able but least likely’ to attend university. His other projects include co-developing a new interdisciplinary module highlighting the histories of groups and topics traditionally marginalised by Irish society and often overlooked by academia.
He will be letting us know what he thinks of the collection after he submits his thesis.
Congratulations again from the Perceptions of Pregnancy team
The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the medieval to the modern. Today’s post from Jesse Olszynko-Gryn explores the relationship between pregnancy testing and birth defects in the 20th century.
Atkins v. Squibb
In August 1981, People magazine reported that Wyoming attorney Gerry Spence, undefeated since 1969, had won a confidential settlement from the pharmaceutical company Squibb for parents who claimed on behalf of their young, limbless son, ‘that Gestest, the company’s now banned drug to test pregnancies, had caused grotesque birth defects.’
The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the medieval to the modern. Today’s post from Louise Benson James explores the representation of pregnancy in Helen Oyeyemi’s The Opposite House.
Helen Oyeyemi’s The Opposite House (2007) is narrated by Maja, a young Afro-Cuban woman living in London, and pregnant for the first time. Pregnancy in The Opposite House is presented as a Gothic experience. Maja’s anxiety about the process of giving birth is tracked from monstrous images imagined in childhood – ‘I had vague ideas about one day having to do something large and bloody, put my eye out, or split my forehead open’ – to the adult fear that she will not survive it: ‘I am beginning to understand that at the end of this time there is going to be a need for strength, that as the skin over my stomach pulls tauter my centre descends, and one day I am going to have to push. I don’t know how anyone survives it, the thought or the happening. I will not’.  Maja expresses the alienating and disordering effect of her changing pregnant body: ‘my breasts are rotten lumps hooked into my ribcage, and I can’t touch my body at all, I can’t’ (p.17). Clare Kahane states:
The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the medieval to the modern. Today’s post from Isabel Davis introduces us to a new project that examines conception in the past and the present.
Those undergoing IVF treatment look modernity in the face. Watching a cell fertilise and an embryo develop in a petri-dish necessarily inspires awe in modern science. Read, for example, this moving account of embryo transfer by New Zealand blogger Little Red Hen. At the same time as marvelling at reproductive technology, she spares a thought for the people of the past, who lived without these assistive technologies; in spite of her own struggles it makes her ‘feel lucky’.
The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the medieval to the modern. Today’s post from Laura Neff asks why there is not more debate about maternal deaths in the United States.
Ten years ago, I watched pro-choice and pro-life activists marching towards the US Capitol Building. It was a hot afternoon, and the muggy air felt like an oppressive sea to swim through in Washington, DC. Their signs were like oars in the ocean and the two opposing sides were like two great naval flotillas, gearing up for battle. At the time, I was an intern for the Office of the House Historian and I was fascinated with the social understandings of life and death in the womb. Yet, neither group debated life and death for the mother during pregnancy, childbirth or post-partum. Why is maternal death and its prevention not a larger issue in the US 2016 presidential election? And more broadly, have the risks associated with maternal death been overshadowed by the binary pro-choice/pro-life debate?
CALL FOR PAPERS (Originally posted on H-Net)
Seeking essays for an edited collection entitled
Mad, Bad, and Dangerous: The Politics of Reproduction in the Age of Neoliberalism
Editors: Modhumita Roy and Mary Thompson
Deadline for Abstracts: August 1, 2016
“[I]t is crucial to consider the degree to which one woman’s possession of reproductive choice may actually depend on or deepen another woman’s reproductive vulnerability.”
-Rickie Solinger, Beggers and Choosers (2001)
The first two decades of the 21st century have witnessed intensified interest in definitions and understandings of reproduction in the U.S. and around the world. Less discussed, however, have been those narratives that problematize the normalized scripts of reproductive desire, labor, and choice-making to reveal the division of labor that separates those who desire and those who are instrumental in satisfying such desires.
This book uniquely brings together abortion, adoption, and surrogacy as instances/sites of reproductive politics that need to be considered as a whole. We focus on these issues because they reflect new ways of constructing family and changing definitions of motherhood in an era of expanding reproductive freedoms and choices that are available, particularly to women. And yet, even as these sites (egg donation, surrogacy, or adoption, to name a few) reflect some women’s amplified options, they also indicate other women’s unvoiced desperation and coercion. Considering, as Rickie Solinger has done, the biopolitics of reproductive choice in the 21st century, much feminist work remains to be done before reproductive justice is achieved. Significantly, persistent discourses of bio-essentialism and pronatalism remain unchallenged in the constructions of gender, motherhood, and the demand for genetically related off-spring. Moreover, the era of neoliberalism—with its emphasis on privatization, minimal government intervention, and a reduction of the State’s responsibility for social welfare and services—has produced an illusion of amplified “choice” for those privileged women who can afford to claim normalized motherhood; meanwhile, these claims mask and contribute to the vulnerability of other women. Narratives of “bad mothers” or women who are “bad choice makers” (voluntarily childless, seeking or failing to seek abortion, surrendering or failing to surrender children, etc.) obscure the precarious and dangerously limited range of “choices” available to some women. Accounts of the dangers faced by women in the pursuit of motherhood or reproductive freedom (egg donations, surrogacy, multiple embryo implantations, DIY abortions) are similarly suppressed.
This collection aims to address the urgent need for feminist analyses of reproduction that looks carefully at scientific possibilities, social practices, and cultural representations. We invite essays that draw on interdisciplinary approaches and methodologies to analyze the complex politics of reproduction globally. Topics may include but are not limited to:
* surrogacy (commercial; altruistic; gestational)
* abortion (challenges to “good” abortion scripts; bans on abortions for sex, race, and disability; DIY abortions)
* politics of adoption (domestic; international; open; closed)
* infertility and IVF (egg donation and egg freezing)
* reproductive tourism
* pronatalism and the state
* politics of nonreproduction
* reproduction and population discourse
* the politics of “choice” and new reproductive technologies
* age and the politics of reproduction
* the law and reproduction
* assisted reproduction (womb transplants; orphan embryos; triplings and twiblings)
* the baby as commodity
* moral regulation of pregnancy and parenting
* structures of feeling—making babies, making families
* desires for genetically related children; baby hunger
* queer reproduction
* alternative families and “making kin”
* pro-choice politics vs. reproductive justice
Abstracts/proposals (350-500 words) with a short biography due: August 1, 2016. Acceptances made by September 1, 2016. Completed manuscripts (6,000-8,000 words) double-spaced with references in MLA format) are due: December 1, 2016.
Please send inquiries and abstracts to the editors:
Modhumita Roy or Mary Thompson