Sex and the Streets: Fetal/Perinatal Remains and the 18th-Century Histories of Women’s Reproductive Health around the French Empire from Pondicherry to New Orleans, Part 1

AHA Session 97
Friday, January 7, 2022: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Rhythms Ballroom 1 (Sheraton New Orleans, 2nd Floor)
Mélanie Aimée Marie Lamotte, Tulane University

Session Abstract

Fetal or perinatal remains have been largely ignored in all our of rich work on many aspects of women’s reproductive health histories and indeed the disposal of remains, whether caused by miscarriage, abortion, or neonatal death, has remained a taboo subject in western culture. The controversy that swirled around Chrissy Teigen’s social media documentation of her and her mother holding the remains of a 20-week fetus demonstrated both the growing movement to talk about the issue and the strong sense that it is an inappropriate subject for public discussion. Yet the disposal of fetal remains has been a consistent issue in the histories of women’s reproduction health. Many aspects of the history of the political, social, economic, and cultural world of streets have been in the focus of recent scholarship. These two linked panels will explore sex in the streets in the context of the handling, movement, meanings, and practices of fetal remains across a wide range of regions, communities and situations across the eighteenth-century French empire from Pondicherry to New Orleans via France and the Caribbean. The papers will examine this issue for enslaved women and free women of color as well as white women and through a wide variety of themes including education, abortion, miscarriage, sexuality, law, science, religion, resistance, and emotion.
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