Histories of Reproductive Risk: Antiquity to the Present

  • March 25-26, 2016
  • Dickinson Hall
  • Princeton University

From ancient astrology and embryology to contemporary genetic testing and assisted reproductive technologies, the quest to predict and manage the uncertainties of reproduction has spanned millennia and a range of scientific fields. While there have been major transformations in the ideas and practices underlying efforts to measure and control reproductive risks, these innovations have been guided by enduring concerns over how to insure a healthy pregnancy, treat infertility, minimize complications during delivery, and prevent maternal and infant mortality. Such endeavors to monitor and intervene in reproductive events have raised vital questions regarding the relationship between the woman and her fetus, use of birth control and abortive practices, and the nature of scientific expertise.

Scholars of the history of reproduction have recently been engaged in interdisciplinary discussions of the medical, theological, legal, political, and ethical stakes surrounding the generation of life. This workshop seeks to contribute a fresh perspective by focusing on knowledge and techniques that have aimed to explain, assess, and control the uncertainties of the reproductive process – encompassing fertility, generation, conception, pregnancy, and birth. What tools, theories, and practices of risk assessment have been employed to manage reproduction? How have scientific technologies shaped experiences of reproduction, and ideas about normal and abnormal reproductive events? How have patients and medical practitioners evaluated reproductive outcomes? In what ways has medicalization mediated and heightened the risks associated with reproduction?

This cross-disciplinary workshop brings together junior and senior scholars working on relevant projects in the history of science and medicine, classics, sociology, and gender and sexuality studies.

The workshop is supported by the Graduate School, Council in the Humanities, Center for Collaborative History, Department of Classics, Postclassicisms Network, Program in the History of Science, Program in the Ancient World, Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, the Center for Human Values.

Keynote: Jennifer Morgan (NYU), Friday, March 25, 4:30pm

Rebecca Flemming (University of Cambridge)
Mary Fissell (Johns Hopkins University)
Alexandra Minna Stern (University of Michigan)
Johanna Schoen (Rutgers University)

Anna Bonnell-Freidin (Princeton University)
Scottie Buehler (UCLA)
Jenna Healey (Yale University)
Andrew Hogan (Creighton University)
Rebecca Johnson (Princeton University)
Wangui Muigai (Princeton University)
Miranda Waggoner (Florida State University)
Colin Webster (UC Davis)