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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


29–30 March 2012
Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge

expectingAround 1900, few pregnant women in Europe or North America had any contact with a medical practitioner before going into labour. By the second half of the twentieth century, the hospitalization of childbirth, the legalization of abortion and a host of biomedical technologies from the home pregnancy test and IVF to obstetric ultrasound and prenatal genetic diagnosis promised unprecedented control. New regulatory frameworks, changing relations between expectant mothers and medical practitioners and technologies for diagnosing, monitoring and intervening in pregnancy offer rich histories to explore. With scholarly writing predominantly dispersed among local studies of maternity care or focused on specific innovations, we lack a synthetic account of transformations in the management, experience and understanding of pregnancy across the whole twentieth century. This conference aims to break new ground by investigating the making, organization and communication of knowledge around pregnancy among experts and laypeople in Britain, France and the United States since 1900.

This interdisciplinary conference will bring together scholars with expertise in the history, sociology and anthropology of reproduction. Talks will be 10-minute summaries and commentaries of pre-circulated papers, followed by discussion in 50-minute slots in such a way as to promote dialogue and critical engagement between fields and approaches.


Thursday 29 March
09.30–10.00 Registration and coffee
10.00–10.15 Welcome and introductions
Chair: Deborah Thom
10.15–12.00 1. Caroline Arni (University of Basel): The Psychic Life of Pregnant Women and the Fetal Subject. Outlines of a History of 'Prenatal Psychology'
Discussant: Tatjana Buklijas

2. Ofra Koffman (King's College London): Temporary Crisis or Life-Long Disorder? Adolescence, Unwed Motherhood and Mental Pathology
Discussant: Angela Davis

12.00–13.00 Lunch
Chair: Martin Johnson
13.00–14.45 3. Salim Al-Gailani (University of Cambridge): 'Heartbreak Mums' and 'Special Pills': Folic acid and Pregnancy in 1980s Britain
Discussant: Aryn Martin

4. Tatjana Buklijas (Liggins Institute, New Zealand): Fetal Physiology, Nutrition Research and the Origins of the Barker Hypothesis
Discussant: Jesse Olszynko-Gryn

14.45–15.15 Tea
Chair: Nick Hopwood
15.15–17.00 5. Deborah Nicholson (University of the West of Scotland): 'Unseen Citizens': Ultrasonic Fetal Images and Narratives of Life Before Birth
Discussant: Leslie Reagan

6. Angela Davis (University of Warwick): 'Heroes and Stoics': Women's Narratives of Maternity Care, c.1945–1990
Discussant: Rose Elliot

19.00 Conference dinner – Sala Thong, 35 Newnham Road
Friday 30 March
Chair: Linda Layne
09.30–11.15 7. Jesse Olszynko-Gryn (University of Cambridge): Diagnosing Pregnancy in the 1930s
Discussant: Ilana Löwy

8. Rose Elliot (University of Glasgow): Abortion, Miscarriage or Criminal Feticide? Medical Understandings of Early Pregnancy Loss in Britain, c.1900–1950
Discussant: Amanda Raphael

11.15–11.45 Coffee
Chair: Martin Richards
11.45–13.30 9. Ilana Löwy (CNRS, Paris): Looking for Malformations, Looking for Risks: Fifty Years of Prenatal Diagnosis
Discussant: Ofra Koffman

10. Leslie Reagan (University of Illinois): 'Monstrous' Babies in the News: Thalidomide, Birth Defects, and Public Policy in the United States in 1962
Discussant: Salim Al-Gailani

13.30–14.30 Lunch
Chair: Angela Davis
14.30–16.15 11. Aryn Martin and Kelly Holloway (York University, Canada): 'Something there is that doesn't love a wall': The Elusive Placental Barrier in Medical and Popular Health Discourse
Discussant: Deborah Nicholson

12. Amanda Raphael (Independent Scholar): Deep Breaths and a Nice Cup of Tea: Antenatal Education Since the 1950s
Discussant: Caroline Arni

16.15–16.30 Closing remarks
16.30–17.00 Tea and goodbyes

The registration fee of £30 (£15 for students/unwaged) includes lunch and tea/coffee on both days.

Organisers: Salim Al-Gailani (Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge), Angela Davis (Centre for the History of Medicine, University of Warwick) and Jesse Olszynko-Gryn (Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge).

Supported by a Wellcome Trust strategic award in the history of medicine to the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, the Cambridge Interdisciplinary Reproduction Forum, the British Society for the History of Science, and Robinson College, University of Cambridge.

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