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"Risk Children“. A Scientific and Social History of Pregnancy and Reproduction in the Federal Republic of Germany

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"Risk Children"

The project explores notions of risk in reproduction and related notions of prevention as they emerged in the Federal Republic from the 1950s to the 1990s and continue to have a strong formative force today. One focus is on the often marginalized perspective of activists and migrants.

Aim of the project

In the context of pregnancy and reproductive health, the concept of "risk" is ubiquitous today. Possible environmental influences or genetic anomalies are just a few examples of such "risks", which are countered with specific health care structures and risk reduction products. However, the term "risk" did not appear in scientific as well as public debates until the 1960s.

The goal of the project is to show the different ways in which the concept of risk changed scientific and clinical practice, laws, and policies in the following decades; how it affected policy-making processes and public opinion formation; the ways in which it was negotiated by activist groups; and the ways in which it changed the attitudes of experts, women, and families toward pregnancy, reproduction, and the unborn child. Closely related to this change in the history of reproduction is the term "at-risk child," used as a medical diagnosis as well as a high-profile buzzword.

Within the framework of the project, sources relating to different social groups, such as medical experts, activists, lobbying institutions or affected persons, will be analyzed in a historical-critical way. In parallel, a "Virtual Archive of Sources on Reproductive Health" will be created for the German context.

Project information

Funding: BMBF / DLR

Project management: Prof. Dr. Birgit Nemec

Project duration: 2019 - 2023


Univ.-Prof. Dr. Birgit Nemec

Co-director of the Institute for the History of Medicine and Ethics in Medicine, Chair for the History of Medicine