Reinventing the Archive – a postcolonial analysis of feminist activism in India and Ireland

Helen Sunderland

Last Tuesday, the Gender and Sexuality History workshop heard from Dyuti Chakravarty, a PhD student in Sociology at University College Dublin. Her research compares two contemporary feminist movements for ‘bodily autonomy’: ‘Pinjra Tod’ (Break the Cage), a campaign against gender-discriminatory policies in Delhi universities and student accommodation, and the campaign to Repeal the Eighth amendment of the Irish constitution, which secured two-thirds of votes in the referendum in May.

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Physical Culture, an intellectual and practical exploration!

George Severs

Last week, Conor Heffernan from University College, Dublin, put the ‘work’ into workshop. His paper on ‘The Irish Sandow School: Physical Culture in Fin de Siècle Ireland’ investigated the various cultures and networks of masculinity which emerged from ‘physical culture’. And it began by involving attendees of the workshop in some gentle exercises!

Physical culture, Heffernan told us, could be seen as the emerging trends of body building, muscle measurement and generally public forms of exercise. Journals quickly emerged to meet the needs of the (mostly) men who became fixated with tracing their physical progress, and who developed a desire to share the measurements of their ever-increasing muscles with the journals’ growing readership. Read widely across Ireland at the fin de siècle, these journals are a fascinating echo of the modern-day trend of body builders and those who ‘go gym’ to record their corporeally expanding exertions and to share them on social media.

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Family Planning, Men and Masculinity

Holly Ashford

I had been very much looking forward to hearing Katie Jones from the University of Birmingham give her paper on men’s attitudes to contraception in 1970s and 80s Britain. I was not disappointed. Katie’s paper touched on some important themes, asked pertinent questions and prompted lively discussion. The history of family planning in Britain goes back to the 1920s, when Marie Stopes opened the first birth control clinic in London. The term ‘family planning’ illuminates the framework in which contraception was understood for decades – as something used in the context of nuclear, family life. Indeed, we should keep in mind that family planning isn’t just about limiting births but also deals with issues of infertility and childlessness.

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