Introduction: The Body Politic and the Infertile Body

  • Tracey LoughranEmail author
  • Gayle Davis


This section introduction sets out the ways in which infertile bodies have been situated as objects of political concern. Since ancient times, the reproductive capacity of a people has been used as an indicator of political health. Even today, in many Western societies the fertile body is used as a symbol of national power. Historically, high-level machinations of power have often determined the individual experience of infertility, whether through castigation of those who fail to conceive, or policies of population control. This section examines the intersection between medical and cultural constructions of infertile bodies, political understandings of population and the health of the state, and the development and provision of techniques for investigating, managing, and curing infertility. It concludes that analysis of political influences on perceptions and experiences of infertility helps us to understand the boundaries of infertile individuals’ capacities for action, and their abilities to enact positive change.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of EssexColchesterUnited Kingdom
  2. 2.School of History, Classics and ArchaeologyUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUnited Kingdom

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