Call for Chapter Proposals: Rhetorics of Reproduction: Rights, Health, Justice

deadline for submissions: 
December 10, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Heather Adams and Nancy Myers, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

A kairotic moment, 2019 marks a surge in US state legislatures establishing laws tied to reproductive rights, health, and justice, some of which are intended to challenge and overturn Roe v. Wade. While Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Utah passed bills that limit abortions, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont have established laws protecting abortion access. At the same time, no policy changes to the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits Medicaid coverage of abortion, are in sight. But abortion is just one issue of reproductive rights, health, and justice—concerns that affect people in local, national, and global contexts. For example, as a result of the 63rd session of the United Nations Commission on Women, the 2019 delegates deemed it a priority to  

Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, . . . including universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes, and recognizing that the human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on all matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence, as a contribution to the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women and the realization of their human rights. (https://undocs.org/en/E/CN.6/2019/L.3 17)

The UN statement charts a vision for a more just future in relation to reproduction, even though globally, women experience varying, often unjust, and—at this moment—critically unstable material reproductive realities. Such discord calls for intellectual labor and discussion.

We offer this call for proposals and see this volume, then, as a site for engaging with these realities—be they past, present, or future—by examining the diverse rhetorics that contribute to reproductive politics. Specifically, we envision a collection that engages, with integrity, the wider, more inclusive, and well-theorized concept of reproductive justice (RJ), a term that names the movement that has emerged from women of color thought-leaders and activists since 1994. Our understanding of this concept and the activity that it encourages is best captured by Ross, Roberts, Derkas, Peoples, and Toure:

Reproductive justice is not difficult to understand. It is both a theoretical paradigm shift and a model for activist organizing centering three interconnected human rights values: the right not to have children using safe birth control, abortion, or abstinence; the right to have children under the conditions we choose; and the right to parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments. RJ activism is based on the human right to make personal decisions about one’s life, and the obligation of government and society to ensure that the conditions are suitable for implementing one’s decisions. (Radical Reproductive Justice 14)

While this definition reflects the capaciousness and dynamism of RJ as a concept, the term frequently becomes salient around three sites of activity: rights, health, and justice. Resonant with the UN statement above, RJ uses “global human rights standards” to interrogate reproductive experiences and then mobilize thought and action toward more just, inclusive, and coalitional ends.

While we welcome proposals on reproductive issues in the US, we also invite proposals that examine transnational and global aspects of reproductive justice. These proposals may be historical or contemporary discussions of cultural, material, embodied, economic, medical, and/or legal conditions. They may draw on various media and methodologies. We offer the following list of questions as potential opportunities for contributing to this collection:

  • How do the terms rights, health, and justice shape the discursive/material landscapes of reproductive politics and what are the implications of those shapings?
  • What exclusionary or normative assumptions undergird discourses of reproduction and reproductive responsibilities and possibilities?
  • What conditions shape/have shaped people’s experiences with reproduction? How have people navigated, resisted, remained complicit to, spoken, and/or thought about these conditions? 
  • What rhetorics (vocabularies, symbols, material rhetorics, and/or tacit assumptions) call for examination in this current moment of US political retrenchment and division over reproductive concerns?
  • What non-US activities related to reproductive rights, health, and justice need attention, amplification, analysis?
  • How can we write more accurate and inclusive collective histories about reproduction that link the past, present, and future?
  • What stories, experiences of justice, sites of resilience, and victories should be examined and amplified?
  • How have people envisioned or articulated new or alternative approaches to reproduction that call for rhetorical examination?

For this collection, we consider RJ a theoretical frame and a methodology that aligns in significant ways with the work of rhetorical scholars and others who study language and its uses and effects, four of which we enumerate here. (1) RJ has identified and works to rectify dichotomous rhetorical framings and vocabularies (most notably pro-choice/pro-life) that are divisive, ineffectual, and incomplete. (2) RJ relies on storytelling to listen to various lived experiences and invites new rhetorical figurations to imagine more inclusive and just possibilities. (3) RJ’s commitment to what rhetorical scholars would term historiography encourages trans-historical examinations of the linkages between systemic and/or past oppressions and their manifestations today. (4) RJ amplifies and centers—that is, recovers and recuperates—the contributions of people of color to historical feminist/reproductive activism, thus changing and making more complete traditionally white and exclusionary narratives of reproductive and women’s rights that continue to shape reproductive politics today.

By 10 December 2019, submit 500-word proposals and contact information to Heather Adams and Nancy Myers at the University of North Carolina Greensboro at RhetoricofReproduction@gmail.com. Acceptances will be notified by 1 March 2020 and completed drafts will be due by 15 June 2020. Please email all inquiries and questions to Heather and Nancy at this email address.