12 Dec 2019 - 13 Dec 2019 All day Room SG1 & SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT



Caroline Rusterholz (University of Cambridge)

Yuliya Hilevych (University of Cambridge)

Jenny Bangham (University of Cambridge)



Counsellors in reproductive health help patients and parents interpret the results of genetic tests, make decisions about treatment and birth control, and understand sexual difficulties. Counselling encounters are potentially highly emotional — provoking guilt, fear, confusion, relief and joy — and can powerfully impact individuals, families, extended families and communities. 

They also have rich and varied histories. In postwar Europe, counselling and communication practices in reproductive health have driven and been shaped by the ‘liberalisation’ of sexuality, the psychological turn, ethical and legal debates about reproductive autonomy and disability, discourses about race, gender and medicine, a growing need for patients to manage risks, and new definitions of responsible citizens and patients.

This two-day interdisciplinary workshop brings together historians, sociologists and current professionals to consider three strands of practice: sexual and birth-control counselling, infertility counselling and genetic counselling. Thematically, we have four aims: (1) to recover the changing gendered and radicalised experiences of reproductive and sexual medicine by patients and practitioners; (2) to explore the roles of 'emotion' in counselling, especially in relation to class, gender and race; (3) to understand changing strategies for managing risk and responsibility in different political contexts; (4) to explore how counselling is being refashioned today, in light of new reproductive technologies and genomic medicine.



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Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), the British Academy, the Cambridge Reproduction Strategic Research Initiative, the University of Cambridge's Faculty of History, and the Wellcome Trust.


Thursday 12 December 2019

08:30 – 09:00


09:00 – 09:30

Welcome and Opening

09:30 – 11:00

Session One: Sexual Counselling in the Past: Teenagers and Spouses

Caroline Rusterholz (Wellcome Trust Research Fellow, Faculty of History, University of Cambridge)
'Sexual Counselling and Teenagers in Postwar Britain in the Brook Advisory Centre'

Teri Chettiar (Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Illinois)
'Counselling for Connection: Making Intimate Relationships in 1960s and 70s Britain'

Chair: Lesley Hall (Wellcome Library)

11:00 – 11:30


11:30 – 13:00

Session Two: Infertility Counselling: History, Politics and Practices

Jennifer Hunt and Jim Monach (co-founders of BICA)
'Fertility Counselling in the UK: the Emergence of BICA and Continuing Challenges'

Naomi Pfeffer (Emeritus Professor, University College London)
'The Politics of Infertility in Britain'

Chair: Yuliya Hilevych (Faculty of History, University of Cambridge)

13:00 – 14:00


14:00 – 15:30

Session Three: Genetic Counselling: Words and Emotions

Angus Clarke (Division of Cancer and Genetics, School of Medicine, Cardiff University)
'Factors Influencing Decisions About Genetics and Reproduction'

Elizabeth Anionwu (Emeritus Professor of Nursing)
Bringing Sickle Cell Disease into View: A Personal Account

Chair: Caroline Rusterholz (Faculty of History, University of Cambridge)

15:30 – 16:00


16:00 – 17:00

Public Lecture – CANCELLED

Kate Fisher (Professor of History, Exeter University)
'Sex Objects and Sex Education'

Friday 13 December 2019

09:30 – 11:00

Session Four: Sexual Counselling: Past Practices

Robert Irwin (Bath Spa University, Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Counsellor)
'Sparing the Department of Health and Social Security's Blushes: The Use of Sexually Explicit Film Material for the Purpose of Sexuality Attitudes Reassessment (SAR) in the Training of Medical Practitioners and Psychosexual Therapists during the 1970s'

Ester McGeeney and Rachel Thomson (Department of Sociology, University of Sussex)
'Young Women Speaking Out About Sex: Making Public Problems from Private Troubles in Social Research in the 1980s'

Chair: Lucy Delap (Department of History, University of Cambridge)

11:00 – 11:30


11:30 – 13:00

Session Five: The Emergence of Self-help Groups around Infertility

Tinne Claes (Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Department of History, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven)
‘A Talking Cure? Counselling and Self- Help Groups for the Involuntarily Childless in Belgium in the 1970s and 1980s’. 

Yuliya Hilevych (British Academy Newton International Fellow, Faculty of History, University of Cambridge)
'From Fertility Awareness to Infertility Consciousness: Emergence of Infertility Awareness and Self-help Movement in 1970s – 1980s Britain'

Chair: Nick Hopwood (HPS, University of Cambridge)

13:00 – 14:00


14.00 - 15.30

Session Six: Genetic Counselling: Risks and Responsibility

Birgit Nemec (University of Heidelberg, Germany)
'Future Parents, Genetic Counselling, and Transformations of Parent-Child Relationships in West Germany'

Susanne Doetz (University of Magdeburg, Germany)
'Counselling without Counsellors: Genetic Counselling in the GDR as a Medical/Biological Practice'

Chair: Jenny Bangham (Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge)

15:30 – 16:00


16:00 – 17:30

Public Lecture

Tracey Loughran (University of Essex)
'Intimacy at a Distance: Emotional Labour and the “Psychological Turn” in British Problem Pages, c. 1960-1990'

Upcoming Events


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