5 Sep 2016 - 7 Sep 2016 7:30pm GR06/07 Seminar Room, Faculty of English, 9 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DP


Registration for the conference is now closed.



Jesse Olszynko-Gryn (University of Cambridge)

Caroline Rusterholz (Birkbeck, University of London)



This two-day conference brings together historians, demographers and other social scientists from France and Britain working in the field of reproductive politics.

In recent decades, scholars have explored the politics of reproduction in the twentieth century from different national perspectives. It is now well established under what circumstances and with which purposes laws regulating reproduction have been implemented. More recently, individual reproductive behaviours have been made central to historical understandings of long-term demographic change. Richly detailed and contextualized studies are becoming commonplace in the field. These have generated new insights and have also complicated the linear narrative of reproductive emancipation that has dominated since the 1970s. While much has been learned about the legal, social and intimate aspects of reproduction in France and Britain, less has been done to understand the differences and similarities between these two countries.

The programme begins with a screening of a period drama about abortion in Vichy France. It continues with six sessions reflecting the main productive themes in the field—from abortion, contraception and family planning to assisted reproduction, pregnancy and childbirth:

  1. IVF, media and reproductive work
  2. Prevention through reproductive technologies
  3. Contraception knowledge and public health
  4. Abortion, family planning and demography
  5. Pregnancy, surveillance and governmentality
  6. Reproduction, medicine and activism

Sessions will identify similarities and differences between political, religious and medical contexts on both sides of the channel as well as leading actors and their networks. Presentations and discussions will explore how various aspects of reproduction are privately experienced, publicly debated, legally regulated and scientifically and medically managed.




Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) and the Wellcome Trust. 


Administrative assistance: events@crassh.cam.ac.uk


Monday 5 September - CRASSH, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road
19.30 - 21.00

Film screening of Une affaire de femmes (1988), introduced by Fabrice Cahen (INED, Esopp (EHESS/CRH) France)

Tuesday 6 September - English Faculty, 9 West Road
8.45 - 9.15


9.15 - 9.30

Welcome and opening

9.30 - 11.00

Session 1: IVF, media and reproductive work

Chair: Dr Nick Hopwood (Cambridge)


Dr Katie Dow (Cambridge)

'Looking into the test tube: the on-screen birth of IVF'


Professor Laurence Tain (Lumière Lyon Lumière2, research associate INED)

'The world chain of reproductive work'

11.00 - 11.30


11.30 - 13.00

Session 2: Prevention through reproductive technologies

Chair: Professor Sarah Franklin (Cambridge)


Professor Isabelle Ville (EHESS)

'Professional attitudes towards the risk of fetal malformation'


Dr Cathy Herbrand (De Montfort)

'How was the legalisation of mitochondrial donation possible in the UK? Bridging the recent and past debates'

13.00 - 14.00


14.00 - 15.30

Session 3: Contraception, knowledge and public health

Chair: Dr Lesley Hall (Wellcome Library)


Dr Caroline Rusterholz (Birkbeck)

‘Transfer of contraceptive knowledge from England to France’


Dr Bibia Pavard (Panthéon-Assas University, CARISM, Paris)

‘The right to know? The politics of information about contraception in France from population control to individual choice (1950s-1980s)’

15.30 - 16.00


16.00 - 17.30


Professor Simon Szreter (Cambridge)

Wednesday 7 September - English Faculty, 9 West Road
9.30 - 11.00

Session 4: Abortion, family planning and demography

Chair: Dr Jennie Bristow (Canterbury Christ Church)


Professor Sally Sheldon (Kent)

'The Abortion Act: a biography'


Professor Virginie De Luca Barrusse (IDUP, France)

'”Le syndrome de dénatalité”? Demographic issues in family planning debates (France 1950-1960)'

11.00 - 11.30


11.30 - 13.00

Session 5: Pregnancy, surveillance and governmentality

Chair: Dr Lucy Delap (Cambridge)


Dr Fabrice Cahen (INED, Esopp (EHESS/CRH) France)

‘Pregnancy: a matter of government and governmentality’


Dr Salim Al-Gailani (Cambridge)

'Liberty, confidentiality and the surveillance of pregnancy in interwar Britain'

13.00 - 14.00


14.00 - 14.45

Session 6: Reproduction, medicine and activism

Chair: Professor Anne-Françoise Praz (Fribourg)


Dr Jesse Olszynko-Gryn (Cambridge)

‘The feminist appropriation of pregnancy testing in 1970s Britain’

14.45 - 15.30

Final discussion

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Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk