Series editor Rickie Solinger joined us for an interview on how the Reproductive Justice Series came about, the impact and continued relevance of the series, and the defining motivations in her own work.
Rickie Solinger is a historian, curator and author or editor of many books about reproductive politics, including Reproductive Justice: An Introduction, co-written with Loretta Ross.
Thanks for joining us to talk about the Reproductive Justice Series. Can you tell us briefly how the series came about?
I went to Alex Stern’s Reproductive Justice Conference in Ann Arbor some years ago. Everyone there was deeply imagining – and discussing – what they could personally contribute to this movement that was changing the ways activists, providers, scholars, and others were thinking about reproductive dignity and safety.
I am a book person determined to believe that book-writing is political activism! So the lightbulb flashed for me in the shape of a book series: we needed a program for publishing the best, most illuminating, accessible and theoretically rich books that would explain and expand the idea of reproductive justice and its many applications. When Naomi Schneider agreed and the University of California Press became the home for the series, we were off and running.
How would you describe the series and the kind of projects you’re looking for?
The series has developed beautifully. It has two streams, primers and books of original research. The launching book, Reproductive Justice: An Introduction which I wrote with Loretta Ross, a founder of the RJ framework, is a primer. There are a number of others in progress, including primers on RJ and Disability Justice; RJ and Youth; Queering RJ; and RJ and Abortion, among others. These are generally invited projects, but we’re always ready to entertain a proposal for another primer.
The books of original research are beginning to tumble out this year, and it’s so exciting. We have new releases from Natalie Lira, Sara Matthiesen, Chris Barcelos, and Krystale Littlejohn. These are capacious books with big ideas, pointing toward new ways of thinking about reproductive politics, race, lived experience, and the forces of intersectionality. Each of these books – and the ones on deck – are admirably original and useful, as we face today’s particular, fresh challenges.
People always say to those of us working on reproductive politics: “Your work is so timely!” Well, indeed, it’s been a sharply timely topic for all of my adult and writing life – every day of it. RJ gives us an endlessly yielding orientation to understanding power, lived experience, and reproduction. We continue to welcome projects that reflect this complex and difficult perspective.
What do books in this series offer in terms of understanding relevant current events, such as the recent abortion ban in Texas?
I say that reproductive politics has been forever-timely. But living in this moment is different. Because of Trump’s Supreme Court appointments. Because of people like Jonathan Mitchell, the Texas lawyer who has been preparing his vigilante strategy for years, for this particular moment. Because of the refreshed white-supremacist tactics the Republican Party is hugging tight.
The organizations and people who have been working for fifty years to protect reproductive health and dignity are dedicated and deeply experienced. They will continue the fight. They – and the rest of us – will need to be continually inventive, continually open to rethinking why we are where we are and how we move forward.
The books in the RJ series will be part of this process, now and into the future. My beloved teacher, the historian, Herb Gutman, taught his students to look deep into the apparently quiescent moments, the moments that seemed to be defined by defeat and disorientation. There, he said, you can begin to perceive new energy and new ideas emerging that will define the next forms of activism, the next successes. The RJ series is a great resource here.
You’ve authored several books on reproductive justice, including Reproductive Justice: An Introduction, the primer that launched the Reproductive Justice series, The Abortionist, and Abortion Wars. What have been the defining motivations and insights in your own work?
For all these years, I’ve been committed to putting race at the center of my work. I’ve continuously understood that the story of the social and political management of reproduction in the U.S. over time is the story of making race, enforcing racial difference, and cementing white supremacy. It is also the story of people striking out against racialized management, of claiming autonomy over their bodies, and of building movements to support self- and group-determination. It has meant everything to my work to have taken up this project at a time when tools for understanding “race” as contingent, constructed, contested, political terrain have been available. Today we know we have to bring double and triple consciousness – and more – to telling these histories.