Seminar Postponed – Relief and Regret: Fifty Years of Women’s Voices in British Abortion Activism
We are sorry for the short notice, but due to Illness this seminar is postponed
(University of Kent)
The five decades since the passage of the Abortion Act in 1967 have been marked by continuous debates about abortion laws and service provision. Nearly fifty attempts have been made in parliament to amend the Act, almost all to restrict it in some way. Outside parliament, activists have fought for and against the parliamentary attempts and simultaneously sought to move the debate onto their own terms.
In this paper I trace the way that Pro-Choice and Pro-Life activists have drawn upon women’s stories of their pregnancy decisions in order to animate what would otherwise be abstract medical and moral arguments about the desirability of abortion. It is arguably more expected that Pro-Choice, feminist activists would emphasise women’s experiences, but it is also clear that Pro-Life campaigners have drawn upon women’s voices to counteract accusations that they are telling women how to behave. Women have played a prominent role in abortion activism of all types, including making medical and moral arguments, but it is important to identify the role that women’s experiences have played in influencing public and political debate about abortion in the last fifty years.
Wednesday, 21st March 2018, 12.45 pm – 2.00 pm
Venue: LG24, Keppel Street Building
Seminar – Itching to Serve: Entomology, Infection, and the Experimental Citizen in Wartime Britain, 1939-1945
(Queen Mary, University of London)
During the Second World War, British medical researchers warned of an imminent invasion of the national body by an army of lice, mites, and other unwanted parasites. With the pandemics of the Great War still fresh in the minds of many public health officials, some predicted that vector-borne diseases such as typhus, scabies, and relapsing fever would “spread like wildfire” in the country’s overcrowded air-raid shelters and bomb-damaged suburban homes. Responding to these concerns, the Medical Research Council sponsored a national network of investigations into the transmission and treatment of these conditions, with the Department of Entomology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine at its centre. To conduct their experiments, researchers desperately searched university departments, local communities, and street corners for volunteers willing to serve as both breeding grounds for parasitic populations and test subjects for harsh chemical prophylactics.
This paper will examine the varied experiences of the experimental subjects who responded to this call: a diverse cohort of laboratory technicians, conscientious objectors, unemployed dock workers, colonial labourers, and homeless people. How did the differing statuses of these individuals – some seen as heroic citizens, others as maligned outsiders – influence perceptions of their experimental labours? How did subjects’ changing awareness of their own bodies – newly experienced as itchy, sore, and teeming with parasitic life – impact their understandings of what it meant to be a citizen in wartime Britain? Using archival materials from the Medical Research Council and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, this paper will argue that these wartime experiments reveal hidden divides in the social, political, and emotional landscape of the British Home Front.
Wednesday, 18th April 2018, 12.45 pm – 2.00 pm
Venue: LG24, Keppel Street Building