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Monday, 21 November 2011

Cambridge Interdisciplinary Workshop on Reproduction

I attended this workshop last Friday, a very full and exciting day covering a remarkable range of historical periods and disciplinary approaches, from medieval fertility charms to the impact of contemporary surrogacy on families. Besides giving me information I did not know (I was not aware that there was a noticeable decrease in infant mortality in the C18th - although it then stuck at that plateau pretty much until the C20th) it provided new perspectives on various matters I thought I did know something about.

Perhaps particularly relevant to my own interests, I was intrigued by Anne Hanley's paper on the differing views of French and English physicians in the late C19th about how long a young man should defer marriage if he was discovered to have syphilis, by the attitudes to unwanted extramarital pregnancy and the prospect of abortion in UK 'Kitchen-Sink' literature and film of the 50s and 60s delineated by Fran Bigman, and the possibility mooted by Jesse Olszynko-Gryn that pills meant to act as a pregnancy test in the 1960s were being deployed as abortifacients. I also liked the suggestion that seemed to underlie the evidence put forward by Sarah Jennings from research on children and young adults with lesbian and gay parents, and Susan Imrie on the impact of surrogacy on the children of surrogate mothers, that perhaps children tend to take their family as the norm and consider it ordinary; even perhaps when aware that it is perceived as different by those around them.

A most stimulating day, productive of thoughts I am still mulling over.

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