Non-Reproduction: Politics, Ethics, Aesthetics, 1 February 2013, Birkbeck College, University of London

full name / name of organization: 
Fran Bigman, PhD Researcher, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge, Sophie Jones and Harriet Cooper, PhD Researchers, Department of English and Humanities, Birkbeck College,
contact email: 
non.reproduction@gmail.com

Cultural anxieties concerning biological reproduction often pivot around the notion of the non-reproductive body, in which intersecting fears about class, race, sexuality, gender and disability are encoded. Media discussions of abortion rates, teenage use of contraception, and gay marriage all register the perceived threat of sex without procreation. In a broader sense, the imperative to safeguard the future by ‘thinking of the children’ is powerful ideological currency, animating activists on both the left and the right.

A number of writers have responded to this tendency by considering the aesthetics and ethics of the non-reproductive. Recent work in cultural studies has emphasised the radical potential of the subject that refuses reproduction. In Unmarked: The Politics of Performance (1993), Peggy Phelan locates the radicalism of feminist performance art in its status as ‘representation without reproduction’. More recently, Lee Edelman’s No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (2004) argues that resisting heternormativity entails refusing to participate in ‘the cult of the child’. According to Judith Halberstam (2008), Edelman’s work is part of an ‘anti-social turn’ in queer studies which ‘always lines up against women, domesticity and reproduction’.

Inspired by Halberstam’s intervention, this one-day interdisciplinary humanities symposium invites critical perspectives on the idea of non-reproduction. How is the assumption that the non-reproductive necessarily resists the dominant order undermined by right-wing strategies that seek to limit reproduction, such as forced sterilisation, 'population bomb' rhetoric, discriminatory welfare policies or the stigmatisation of single parents. Is it helpful to draw a conceptual opposition between the reproductive and the non-reproductive? Are there alternatives to this framework? What are the implications of ‘non-reproduction’ and anti-futurity for approaches to the archive and the preservation of cultural and social documents?

Contributions are welcome from graduate students and early career researchers across the arts and humanities, as well as thinkers, activists, writers and artists working outside academia.

Topics could include, but are not limited to:

• pro-choice politics versus reproductive justice
• global warming and population discourse
• Refusing parenthood in art and literature
• Infertility and IVF
• Contraception and abortion politics
• Queer theory and the family
• Gay marriage in the media
• Feminism and maternity
• Museums and heritage
• Textual repetition and reproduction
• Discourses about the child (e.g. the child as commodity)
• The disabled child and controversial sterilization procedures (eg. The Ashley Treatment)
• The politics of non-reproduction in an age of accumulation
• copyright law
• Gustav Metzger and destruction in art
• Derrida on the archive
• Performance theory

Abstracts of 250-300 words for 20-minute papers should be sent to non.reproduction@gmail.com by Monday 1 October.

Organizing Committee:

Fran Bigman, PhD Researcher, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge

Harriet Cooper, PhD Researcher, Department of English and Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London

Sophie Jones, PhD Researcher, Department of English and Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London

cfp categories: 
cultural_studies_and_historical_approaches
gender_studies_and_sexuality
graduate_conferences
interdisciplinary
twentieth_century_and_beyond