Call for chapter proposals: Representing Abortion

deadline for submissions: 
October 1, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Rachel Hurst
contact email: 

Call for papers: Representing Abortion

Edited by Rachel Alpha Johnston Hurst

Deadline for proposals: October 1, 2018



Rosalind Pollack Petchesky argued in 1987 that “feminists and other prochoice advocates have all too readily ceded the visual terrain,” abandoning the field of fetal imagery to antiabortion activists (264).  She called for new fetal images that “recontextualized the fetus” (Petchesky 1987, 287).  Such images would locate the fetus in a body (and a social context) outside of what Carol A. Stabile would later describe as “an inhospitable waste land, at war with the ‘innocent person’ within” that is a dominant theme in antiabortion discourse (1992, 179).  Recently, Shannon Stettner wrote that although there are more ordinary stories about abortion circulating as a political response to threats to abortion access, they are typically anonymous and online, and so it remains a reality that “we are still a long way from a world in which women will not feel obliged to conceal the fact that they had an abortion” (2016, 7).  Even in circumstances that support access to abortion, abortion can remain a secret: invisible and unheard. 

How do we represent abortion?  What work does representing abortion do?  Can representing abortion challenge and change conventional reproductive rights understandings of abortion that circulate publicly?  Will reclaiming representations of abortion help publicly express the “things we cannot say” about abortion from a pro-choice perspective, like grief and multiple abortions (Ludlow 2008, p. 29)?  Alternatively, does taking back control of representing abortion from antiabortion activists provide a space to “celebrate” abortion as a central component of reproductive justice (Thomsen 2013, 149)?  This edited collection begins from these questions to consider how artists, writers, performers, and activists create space to make abortion visible, audible, and palpable within contexts dominated by antiabortion imagery centred on the fetus and the erasure of the person considering or undergoing abortion.  This collection will build on the recent exciting proliferation of scholarly work on abortion that investigates the history, politics, and law of abortion, as well as antiabortion movements and experiences of pregnancy loss (Haugeberg 2017; Johnstone 2017; Lind & Deveau 2017; Sanger 2017; Saurette & Gordon 2016; Smyth 2016; Stettner 2016; Stettner, Burnett, & Hay 2017; Watson 2018).  Central to the considerations in this proposed collection is the intellectual and political work that these artworks, texts, performances, and actions do and make possible.  Contemporary and historical analyses are welcomed. 

Some possible topics include, but are not limited to:

-       “ordinary” stories about abortion told through a variety of media (e.g. “The Abortion Diaries Podcast” by Melissa Madera; various blogs and websites like “My Abortion. My Life”)

-       abortion memoirs (e.g. Marianne Apostolides’ Deep Salt Water; Kassi Underwood’s May Cause Love: An Unexpected Journey of Enlightenment After Abortion)

-       visual art (e.g. Laia Abril’s On Abortion; Paula Rego’s The Abortion Pastels)

-       making the abortion procedure visible, audible, and palpable in abortion support services (e.g. offering the option to view products of conception; abortion support zines)

-       activist art and performance (e.g. the Abortion Caravan in Canada; Chi Nguyen’s “5.4 MILLION AND COUNTING” quilt in Texas; Maria Campbell’s mixed media art on Prince Edward Island; Heather Ault’s travelling graphic art exhibit 4000 Years for Choice; #RepealThe8th protest art in Ireland)

-       plays (e.g. Julia Samuels’ I Told My Mum I Was Going On An RE Trip; Jane Martin’s Keely and Du)

-       films (e.g. Poppy Liu’s Names of Women; Tracy Droz Tragos’ Abortion: Stories Women Tell)

To submit a proposal for inclusion in this collection, please submit a 500 word abstract, a working title, and a 100 word biographical statement to  Proposals must be received on or before October 1, 2018.  Full papers will be invited no later than November 1, 2018, and the abstracts will be used to prepare a book proposal to be submitted to refereed academic publishers.  Complete manuscripts will be due on June 1, 2019, so they can be revised by October 1, 2019 to submit to the publisher. 




Haugeberg, Karissa. 2017. Women Against Abortion: Inside the Largest Moral Reform Movement of the Twentieth Century. Indiana: University of Illinois Press.

Johnstone, Rachael. 2017. After Morgentaler: The Politics of Abortion in Canada. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Lind, Emily R. M. and Angie Deveau, Editors. 2017. Interrogating Pregnancy Loss: Feminist Writings on Abortion, Miscarriage and Stillbirth. Bradford, ON: Demeter Press.

Ludlow, Jeannie. 2008. “The Things We Cannot Say: Witnessing the Trauma-tization of Abortion in the United States.” WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly 36(1/2): 28-41.

Petchesky, Rosalind Pollack. 1987. “Fetal Images: The Power of Visual Culture in the Politics of Abortion,” Feminist Studies 13(2): 263-292.

Sanger, Carol. 2017. About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in Twenty-First Century America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Saurette, Paul and Kelly Gordon. 2016. The Changing Voice of the Anti-Abortion Movement: The Rise of "Pro-Woman" Rhetoric in Canada and the United States. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Smyth, Lisa. 2016. Abortion and Nation: The Politics of Reproduction in Contemporary Ireland. London: Routledge.

Stabile, Carol A. 1992. “Shooting the Mother: Fetal Photography and the Politics of Disappearance,” Camera Obscura 10(1): 178-205.

Stettner, Shannon, Kristin Burnett, and Travis Hay. 2017. Abortion: History, Politics, and Reproductive Justice after Morgentaler. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Stettner, Shannon. 2016. “Without Apology: An Introduction.” In Without Apology: Writings on Abortion in Canada. Edited by Shannon Stettner. Edmonton: Athabasca University Press.

Thomsen, Carly. 2013. “From Refusing Stigmatization toward Celebration: New Directions for Reproductive Justice Activism,” Feminist Studies 39(1): 149-158.

Watson, Katie. 2018. Scarlet A: The Ethics, Law, and Politcs of Ordinary Abortion. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 



About the Editor: Rachel Alpha Johnston Hurst is Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.  She is author of Surface Imaginations: Cosmetic Surgery, Photography, and Skin (MQUP, 2015), and a co-editor of Skin, Culture, and Psychoanalysis (Palgrave, 2013).  Her research is concerned with the relationships between power, embodiment, and (visual) culture, from the perspectives of psychoanalysis and decolonial thought.