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Agata Ignaciuk is an Assistant Professor at the Department of the History of Science, University of Granada (Spain). Between 2017 and 2019, she was a Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions COFUND Research Fellow at the University of Warsaw’s Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology. Her research focuses on gender and the history of sexual and reproductive health and rights. She is currently engaged in the research project “Catholicising Reproduction, Reproducing Catholicism: Activist Practices and Intimate Negotiations in Poland, 1930 – Present” (https://etnologia.uw.edu.pl/en/cathorep).
Contraceptive Technologies in State-Socialist and Catholic Poland: A Social History
My book project examines the history of the technologies of contraception and abortion in Poland between the mid-1950s and early 1990s, from both a feminist and social history of medicine and health perspective. Using archival sources, the media, medical publications, popular medical literature, and oral history interviews, I analyse the circulation trajectories of the pill, male and female barrier methods, spermicides and abortion technologies. Abortion was legal and widely accessible during most of the second half of the twentieth century, yet actively stigmatized by large sectors of the Catholic Church, health authorities, and state-sponsored family planners. In official discourse, contraceptive products were represented as alternatives to abortion, but their availability and quality fluctuated, often in contradiction to population policies pursued by the State. While the Catholic hierarchy systematically broadcast anti-contraception messages, often linked to the alleged health risks posed by contraception, some Catholic intellectuals, and many Catholic couples chose to promote and use contraceptive technologies banned by their Church. A preference for low-technology contraceptives, such as withdrawal and the rhythm method, remained stable in Poland and at a higher level than in most other Eastern European countries. Following the histories of contraceptive technologies enables me to unfold the intersecting biopolitics of State and Church, examine the complexity of gender models proposed by these entities, and their embodiment in Polish (hetero)sexual contraceptive practices.
Agata Ignaciuk and Teresa Ortiz-Gómez, Anticoncepción, mujeres y género. La “píldora” en España y Polonia (Madrid: Catarata, 2016).
Natalia Jarska and Agata Ignaciuk, ‘Marriage, Gender and Demographic Change: Managing Fertility in State-Socialist Poland’, Slavic Review (forthcoming 2022).
Agata Ignaciuk, ‘Proven and the ZETs. Conceiving Contraception in State-Socialist Poland, c.1957-1970’, Technology and Culture (forthcoming 2022).
Agata Ignaciuk, ‘In Sickness and in health. Expert Discussions on Abortion Indications, Risks and Patient-Doctor Relationships in Post-war Poland’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine 95, no. 1 (2021): 83-112.
Sylwia Kuźma-Markowska and Agata Ignaciuk, ‘Family Planning Advice in State-Socialist Poland, 1950s–1980s: Local and Transnational Exchanges’, Medical History 64, no. 2 (2020): 240-266.
Agata Ignaciuk, ‘No Man’s Land? Gendering Contraception in Family Planning Advice Literature in State-Socialist Poland (1950s-1980s)’, Social History of Medicine 33, no. 4 (2019): 1327-1349.
Review of Agnieszka Kościańska, Zobaczyć łosia. Historia polskiej edukacji seksualnej od pierwszej lekcji do Internetu [To See a Moose. The History of Polish Sex Education] (Wołowiec: Czarne, 2017), in Aspasia 13 (1) (2019): 205-207.
Review of Barbara Klich-Kluczewska, Rodzina, tabu i komunizm w Polsce, 1956–1989 [Family, Taboo and Communism in Poland, 1956-1989] (Kraków: Liberian, 2015), in Clio. Femmes, Genre, Histoire 48 (2018): https://journals.openedition.org/clio/15570
Review of Paula A. Michaels, (2014) Lamaze:An international history (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), in Dynamis 37 (1) (2018): 229-231.