From the silphium of the Roman Empire to the birth control pill, contraception has always been a deeply political subject, where sexual freedom, colonialist fantasies and oppressive understandings of gender all mix into a poisonous brew. This session investigates pharmacological contraception and its profound connection to how we perceive, create and perform gender, proposing a discussion on how might the management of fertility and the economy of hormones in our bodies change in a near future.
The session will depart from a brief overview of the legal status, social impact and political implications of pharmacological contraceptives throughout history. We will discuss issues like the thin, blurry line between early-term abortion and contraception before the 20th century; how midwives were responsible for passing on oral knowledge about reproductive health, and their persecution by the State and the Church; or how medical research and technological advancements have both helped develop effective and reliable contraceptives, and promote a narrow, strictly biology-based understanding of how gender works. We will examine how a colonialist mentality has shaped the development of hormonal birth control, how it erased indigenous knowledges on contraception, and how it might continue directing the development of pharmacological contraceptives in the future.
With the goal of collaboratively creating an account of the possible paths for pharmacological contraception in the next years, this session will immerse participants in a speculative, future timeframe instead of asking them to approach the subject through a removed, present-day perspective. Current events, as well as imagined futures, will be presented since the beginning of the session as facts of a not-so-distant past, and participants will be encouraged to observe and discuss them as if in hindsight; therefore, a certain suspension of disbelief will be necessary. The session will try to highlight the heterogeneity of people’s relationships with contraception; departing from an analysis of their individual experiences, participants will be asked to approach the subject by writing, abstracting, speculating and performing their future selves.