My Website

Showing posts with label rape. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rape. Show all posts

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Enjoyable colloquium

This was not part of the 'get out more' project, as I'd been asked to give a keynote at the 'Civilising Bodies: Literature, Rhetoric and Image, 1700-present day' colloquium run under the auspices of the Centre for Medical History, University of Exeter. It was a rather full (24 short papers in 8 panels + 2 keynote talks) two days, run as one strand without parallel panels, which was an excellent decision, as so many of the papers had things to say to one another, a resonance which would have been lost in parallel sessions.

Everything ran most admirably to time, and there were ample scheduled coffee, lunch and tea breaks facilitating less formal exchanges, as well as an extremely convivial conference dinner.

The speakers were mostly postgraduates and it was very exciting to hear some of the very fresh work that is being done. I was particularly intrigued to observe that Norbert Elias and his theories on the civilising process appear to be making a comeback - though perhaps this was to be expected given the conference theme.

There was a considerable range of material presented, from eighteenth century masquerades to very recent media phenomena such as makeover shows, emerging from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds. Particularly resonant with my own interests were an examination of the 1894 Massage Scandals both in the context of professionalisation and the wider concerns of the period, and an analysis of reports of rapes by medical professionals in the mid-C19th when the profession was going through a turbulent era, with increasing regulation. I was also very interested by the paper on 'Western public toilets and private bodies since the C15th', though unfortunately the author of the paper was not present (it was read out by the session chair) and I therefore did not have a chance to ask how issues of gender inflected this story (in the light of Clara Greed's important work on this topic). But a great deal to think about emerged from all the session.

Mark Jackson's keynote on 'An Age of Stress: myth or reality' was a delicious taster for his new book The Age of Stress: Science and the Search for Stability, suggesting that present-day anxieties about the debilitating pace of modern life as a result of developments in technology reiterate similar concerns expressed in very similar terms going back well into the C19th (at least).

Monday, 16 April 2012

European Social Science History Conference 2012, Glasgow

As always, this was an intense four days of conference activity: 2-hour sessions, four a day, starting at 8.30 am and finishing at 6.30 pm. It's a huge conference, but the breakdown into thematic strands makes it relatively manageable, and the two hour panels do allow for (preferably) 3-4 presentations and adequate discussion time (though some sessions had more than that, which either cuts down on the time allotted to present, or for discussion, neither of which seems ideal).

At least this year I didn't feel obliged to go to every session, which I did a couple of years, when I was History of Sexuality strand chair and we had panels in all available slots. (Don't know how I'd have managed if there had been parallel sessions in the strand.)

My own paper went well, and the panel I chaired was particularly good in terms of the papers all having a good deal of resonance: 'Sexual transgression, transnational travel, and abortion'. This raised a number of intriguing and in the present situation highly relevant issues: that technical legality of abortion doesn't necessarily mean that it's easy to access; that the role of often quite local sexual/social cultures can be quite critical; that it's noticeable the way that certain nations or regions or authorities keep their hands clean by not doing or allowing abortions themselves but with the knowledge that the women they turn down will seek facilities elsewhere beyond their boundaries.

The 'Bodies and Biology' panel (on historical intersex/trans* cases) raised a thought in my mind about the criteria medics were using to establish 'real' sex (preference for sports or needlework, as it might be) - not only deeply gender essentialist but also anachronistic - failing to register temporal changes in ideas of the gender appropriate, e.g. the rise of female athletics - and I wondered if this fits in to a wider generational phenomenon of the older generation thinking that the younger are not doing gender properly, i.e. as they used to.

Papers I was particularly engaged by included Gayle Davies's look at medical attitudes to women seeking conception via artificial insemination in Scotland in the 1950s - they were pathologised as being overly yearning for motherhood and seeking this icky mode of achieving - this seemed to me to fit with the 1950s pathologisation of unmarried mothers and a wider sense of the need for control and to avoid excessiveness at the period (needs more thinking out). 

I really enjoyed Julie Gammon's very lively paper on the prosecution and conviction (and rapid subsequent pardoning) of Colonel Charteris for raping his maidservant (at a time when upper class men could usually get away with this with impunity) and the highly specific reasons why this could even happen when it did.

David Johnson's fascinating piece on gay book clubs in the 1950s and 60s made me think that there is still a lot of work to be done on pre-internet 'virtual communities' around magazines, mailing lists, etc.

Glasgow - at least the area around the University, where the conference was taking place, was far more beautiful than I had expected (the very fine clear weather probably helped) and there were several excellent fish restaurants in Argyle Street.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Catching up on journal literature IX (and chapters in edited volumes)

Shani D'Cruze, Everyday Violence in Britain, 1850-1950: Gender and Class (Harlow: Longman, 2000). This has some excellent and for my purposes extremely useful essays:
            Kim Stevenson, '"Ingenuities of the female mind": legal and public perceptions of sexual violence in Victorian England, 1850-1890' pp 89-103
            Joanne Jones '"She resisted with all her might": sexual violence against women in late C19th Manchester and the local press' pp 104-118
            Jacky Burnett 'Exposing "the inner life": the Women's Cooperative Guilds's attitude to "cruelty"' pp 136-152 - how working class women perceived cruelty: far more broadly than the physical - and husbands were often aware of the limits and avoided doing anything that would constitute legal grounds for separation. Plus, rape in marriage definitely seen as an issue.
            Julie English Early, 'Keeping ourselves to ourselves: violence in the Edwardian suburb' pp 170-184: attitudes to the suburb, itself a rather feminised space perhaps, and perceptions of the slovenly yet consumerist suburban housewife and how these stereotypes of bad wifeness were in play in the Crippen case (Crippen as 'poor little man' who had rid himself of a monster)
            Lucy Bland, 'The trial of Madame Fahmy: Orientalism, violence, sexual perversity and the fear of miscegenation' pp.185-197: classic piece on how issues around race, miscegenation and 'oriental perversions' trumped dodgy female character in case of (French) wife shooting (Egyptian) husband, positioning her as victim

Andrew Mangham and Greta DePledge, The Female Body in Medicine and Literature (Liverpool University Press, 2011): a couple of good pieces for my purposes in this:
            Laurie Garrison, '"She read on more eagerly, almost breathlessly": Mary Elizabeth Braddon's challenge to medical depictions of female masturbation in The Doctor's Wife' pp 148-168. Garrison is very sound on the position of female masturbation within the wider discourses on self-abuse, i.e. marginalised and either negligible or intensely pathologised. As always with this kind of reading of literary texts, I'm not entirely convinced there isn't a certain amount of overinterpretation (why I liked Sharon Marcus's claims for surface reading so much). However, anyone who points out that there are significant problems with the famous Sedgwick piece on Jane Austen and the masturbating girls gains points with me.
            Emma L Jones, 'Representations of illegal abortionists in England, 1900-1967', 196-215. Extremely useful and thoroughly researched piece, including the important point that it's very difficult to track down the medical market in abortions except via fiction and memoir - the doctors who did get prosecuted tending to be marginalised figures for one or another reason who did not get any benefits from professional collegiality and back-covering. Notes that literary representations of back street abortions tends to focus on the more sensational and violent aspects. Evidence that women abortionists were concerned about hygiene - handwashing, use of disinfectant along with the soap, etc. 

Going well with this, Tania Macintosh, 'An Abortionist City. Maternal Mortality, Abortion and Birth Control in Sheffield, 1920-1940' Medical History 44 (2000), , p. 75-97: local evidence, including use of the problematic but still useful Joint Council on Midwifery survey reports, the problems of definition of illegal/spontaneous, the way it was embedded in a fairly patriarchal industrial culture, the relative failure of local birth control clinics have an impact for that reason (though intriguing reference to dienoestrol being used at one, which I think like stilboestrol was being deployed as an abortifacient?).

K. Craig Gibson, 'Sex and Soldiering in France and Flanders. The British Expeditionary Force Along the Western Front, 1914-1919' The International History Review 23 (2001),  p. 535-580. Mostly about relationships between men and local women, suggesting that even close to the front line there were women around (is countering idea that only those well behind the trenches had much access to women & sex), that contact were quite varied in nature, and that mostly if relationships did occur they were transient.

Philip Howell, 'Sex and the City of Bachelors. Sporting Guidebooks and Urban Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century Britain and America' Ecumene 8 (2001), p. 20-51: extremely interesting piece on guidebooks aiming to provide a key to the metropolis and its delights alongside cautions about its dangers. Suggests that these were aspirational for relatively lower-class men, who were not the kind of men of the world who would have this kind of knowledge already. City as site of access to women: desires and anxieties. Misogyny.

Stephen Brooke, 'A New World for Women? Abortion Law Reform in Britain During the 1930s' American Historical Review 106 (2001), , p. 431-459. Makes important point about the complexity of the case ALRA was making for reform - that the maternalism is not just about pro-natalism, it's an empowered/ing maternalist rhetoric. 

Rebecca  Jones, '"That's Very Rude, I Shouldn't be Telling you That" . Older Women Talking about Sex' Narrative Inquiry 12 (2002), , p. 121-143. Not in fact what I was expecting (older women telling younger women about sex): it's pretty much current awareness and playing off from the idea that 'people think old people are sexless/shouldn't be having sex' and the liberal (one woman called it 'Woman's Hour') notion that of course they should, and found that respondents were engaging with both these notions and having problems of fit.