Interventions in the Lives of Mothers: Capturing the History of Reproduction

AHA Session 63
Coordinating Council for Women in History 3
Friday, January 7, 2022: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Galerie 6 (New Orleans Marriott, 2nd Floor)
Deirdre B. Cooper Owens, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Nicole Bourbonnais, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies
Elizabeth O’Brien, Johns Hopkins University
Cassia Roth, University of Georgia
Ogechukwu Ezekwem Williams, Creighton University

Session Abstract

This roundtable brings together scholars studying reproduction and motherhood from a variety of temporal and geographical perspectives, in order to discuss a set of core analytical and methodological questions. Why does reproduction become a site of state and international intervention in particular times and places? How do ideologies and policies surrounding motherhood clash with women’s lived realities? How can we capture the intimate dynamics of birth control, reproductive surgery, childbirth, and childrearing with our limited sources? How can we productively explore the deep connections and commonalities in reproductive politics/experiences across borders and time periods without slipping into universalism?

The participants in this discussion come to these questions from different research agendas: the transnational movement of enslaved mothers from Brazil to Portugal in the 18th century; obstetrics in 19th century Mexico; childbirth in 20th century Nigeria; and the rise of the global family planning movement in the mid-20th century. However, we all share a commitment to capturing both the personal and political aspects of the history of reproduction and motherhood, mixing social history with analysis of legal structures, state policies, and social movements. Through this roundtable we will exchange ideas and strategies for documenting these complex stories, while also exploring the links between our subject matter and broader histories of women, gender, slavery, colonialism, decolonization, race, public health, medicine, and humanitarianism.

See more of: AHA Sessions