Mother, Father, Child, Health – the History of Reproduction
Berlin, 3-5 June 2021
The XVIII Conference of the German-Polish Society for the History of Medicine is being organized in cooperation with the Center for Historical Research at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Berlin and the Institute for the History of Medicine and Ethics in Medicine, Charité Medical University.
Dating back to the philosophy of nature in Greek antiquity, “reproduction” has constituted a grey area between “nature” and “culture”, between the biological, social and cultural world. On one hand, questions about fertility and procreation, embryonic development and birth, require further research and explanation by natural science; on the other, far-reaching religious, moral, and cultural norms have been established around sexuality. Finally, it has
been part of the social-philosophical program since antiquity to understand and control the circumstances and conditions of reproduction for selective breeding purposes – in order to produce an especially suitable future elite or even for creating entire populations.
All three of these factors are in a constant state of flux, especially their interaction and historically and culturally specific forms of superimposition, which are expressed in characteristic features of a given epoch. These include aristocratic claims to power, municipal regulations on midwives, and eugenic ideas among utopians in the 16th
century; phenomena such as the discourse of the “medical police” (Medizinische Polizei) in the 18th century, and debates surrounding the evolutionary theories of Jean Baptiste Lamarck and Charles Darwin that resulted in novel family and sociopolitical concepts, including explicitly racist projects, during the first half of the 20th century.
Debate continued in the latter half of the 20th century surrounding the issues of contraception and abortion. Today, the technical viability of in-vitro fertilization, prenatal diagnostics, and social freezing represent new sites of social and cultural turbulence. Nevertheless, over the centuries it has been first and foremost gender relations,
and therefore the social arrangement of the family, that has ultimately been at issue.
With this in mind, the conference seeks to integrate medical, cultural, scientific, and sociohistorical perspectives and bring them into discourse with one another, and to initiate a dialogue between German, Polish and, more broadly, European research. This requires taking a large historical timeframe into consideration, encompassing
the entire modern era from the Renaissance to the 20th century. Geographically, the focus of the conference will be on Central Europe, which is characterized by an intensive history of migration, as well as by a history of interdependence mediated by state and military power.
There is no conference fee. However, the ability of the conference organizers to cover lodging and travel expenses, especially for junior researchers, is dependent upon pending third-party funding.
The deadline for submission of a 20-minute presentation is 29 August 2020. Presentation proposals should not exceed 2000 characters (including spaces). Along with the proposal, presenters should include their research interests, current affiliations and academic status. Submissions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.