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Explore Scholarship Related to the Jane Collective

In addition to producing Jane: Abortion and the Underground, students read academic Feminist and Queer Studies texts, conducted research on the circulation of cultural productions of the Jane Collective, and watched documentary films. Professor Thomsen’s position is that the students’ work in the play would be improved via engaging with feminist and queer ideas about abortion, activism, and performance. In this section of the website, we share some of the readings and questions that helped students discuss and analyze cultural constructions of reproduction.

What is Reproductive Justice?

This section helps readers develop a basic understanding of reproductive justice and its relationship to reproductive rights. Scholars and activists alike frame reproductive justice as that which goes beyond reproductive rights activists’ concerns about abortion and contraceptives to address additional reproductive issues. Reproductive justice activists also ask us to think about how the ability to “choose” an abortion is itself informed by broader issues, including one’s race and socioeconomic status. Not everyone who obtains an abortion would do so if their material conditions were different. 


Big Questions: What is reproductive justice? What narratives circulate around reproductive justice, reproductive rights, and their relationships to one another? How is abortion framed and discussed within these narratives? What might thinking critically about the narratives that both reproductive justice and reproductive rights activists tell do for our thinking and our politics?

Historicizing and Performing Abortions

Through a discussion of the concepts of “value” and “use,” this section asked students to consider why we were performing Jane. We discussed how knowing the history of abortion, including how abortion became medicalized and thus moralized, might be “useful.” Following Kelly O’Donnell’s discussion of the ways in which cultural narratives around the Jane Collective have shifted over time, we also discussed what work we hope the Jane play can do here and now. 

Big Questions: What continues to be useful about the Jane Collective? What is useful about our production of the play?

Feminist Stories about Feminism

In this section, we centered queer theoretical work on abortion to think about how students’ feminist performance art and activism might challenge—rather than reproduce—heteronormativity. We focused on two cases: 1.) Aliza Shvarts, a Yale student who created what some have called “abortion art” and 2.) End Fake Clinics, an anti-crisis pregnancy and queer reproductive justice student group at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  


Big Questions: How might we use queer theory to think about abortion? What about abortion makes it queer? How might we use contemporary reproductive justice concerns, including those related to performance art and crisis pregnancy centers, to think about Jane? How might we use Jane to think about these contemporary issues?

On Performance and Performativity: What Makes an Act Feminist or Queer?

In this section, we examined the relationship between performativity and performance and the ways in which feminist and queer theory can disrupt broader ideas about the value of certain types of artistic productions. More specifically, we discussed the feminist potential of docudrama and the queer potential of enacting utopia.


Big Questions: What are the differences between possibility and potentiality and how does Jane help us to explicate these distinctions? Who is transformed via a production? What is feminist and what is utopian about the Jane Collective? About performing Jane?

Theorizing Abortion Activism Spatially: Modern Janes? Janes beyond the U.S?

In this section, we used the “political geography of abortion” as a framework to consider ongoing resistance to criminalized and/or inaccessible abortion both within and beyond the U.S. We focused, for example, on the similarities and differences in the work that organizations in Latin America and South America are doing today, nearly fifty years after the Jane Collective was in operation in the U.S.


Big Questions: How might “thinking geographically” open up possibilities for engaging with abortion politics? What would a global approach to reproductive politics/justice look like, especially if we move beyond using the nation state as a scale of analysis? What are the benefits and limits of thinking about contemporary abortion activists in contexts where abortion is illegal in relation to the Jane Collective, and, indeed, as Janes?

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