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In 1995, anthropologists Faye Ginsburg and Rayna Rapp brought scholars together around the observation that ‘seemingly distant power relations shape and constrain local reproductive experiences’. Seeking in part to historicize a rich ethnographic literature, this chapter asks how reproduction was globalized after 1890, World War II and especially 1980. It addresses two main questions. First, how did practices of procreation travel, and to what extent did the connections make reproduction everywhere the same? Second, how have the most powerful influences changed and with what effects? The chapter tackles aspects of these questions for three topics: childbirth, which changed as countries converged on routine supervision by medical attendants leading to hospital delivery, but historians have given short shrift; the move to family planning, which by contrast dominates historical writing on reproduction in ‘developing countries’; and the global market in technologies of assisted reproduction that has grown since 1978. It concludes that globalization made reproduction global and local at the same time, thus enriching and refracting traditions from different regions of the world; that lines of continuity link arguments, practices and critiques, yet the constellation looks different in 1900, 1950 and today; and that nation-states remain paradoxically central even today.
This chapter considers how questions about generation were expressed within and shaped by encounters between patients and practitioners in early modern Europe. It focuses on the casebooks of the English astrologer-physicians Simon Forman and Richard Napier, remarkable for their extensiveness and immediacy. The astrologer-physicians calculated the position of the stars at which a question was asked, used these and other signs, including their patient’s words, to judge the cause of the disease, and both patients and practitioners acted within conventions of what men and women could say and do. Roughly one in twenty women of childbearing age asked ‘Am I pregnant?’, thus opening a conversation about her health, sex life and the state of her marriage. Through an analysis of these dynamics, and rare cases of unmarried women asking about pregnancy, it argues that the medical encounter was part of the idiom in which women and their families and friends expressed and managed uncertainties about pregnancy. Questions about fertility and women’s health similarly document the ways in which doctors were entrusted with questions about fruitfulness. Ultimately the chapter suggests that doctors’ authority was modelled on their ability to answer questions about pregnancy and fertility by reading observed and reported signs.