Gebärpflicht: Dada and Reproductive Rights in Weimar Germany

  • 5pm - 5.45pm

  • Online

Due to copyright restrictions these are internal Edinburgh University talks. Sign-up links will be circulated in due course. If you are a student or member of staff in a part of the University other than Edinburgh College of Art, you can sign up to attend the talks by emailing Paulina Caro Troncoso at

Caitlin Powell (University College London)

Over recent years, the notion of posthumanism has been key to studies of the art and culture of Weimar Germany. It is a moment often characterised by a forced and thoroughgoing reconsideration of selfhood, well-explored through the figure of the inventor, prosthetics, the utopian concept of the ‘New Man’ and the cyborgian aesthetic of Dada. The rapidly colliding intersections of technology and culture, represented in the hybridity of man and machine in Dada, acts as a manifestation of utopian fantasies in response to a fast-changing and increasingly mechanised world. The ‘new self’ of modernism, is a key example of this. The men of this narrative are self-makers, reflecting the posthuman fascinations with fictions of origin, self-creation and autogenesis through technology.

This talk will consider how this established narrative is insufficient, in terms of posthumanism, and fails adequately to reflect the lived technologies of existence in this period. It will consider how the narrative is fundamentally challenged by women’s experiences of reproductive technology and will explore how the reproductive body troubles conventions of retroactively applied posthumanism through an analysis of biopolitics and the intersections of bioproduction with the increasing mechanisation of everyday life. What happens when we cross biopolitics with the abject? And how was this manifested in the visual culture of Dada and the Weimar period?


Caitlin Powell is a PhD candidate in History of Art at University College London. Her research focuses on representations of the reproductive body and terminative technologies in the visual culture of Weimar Germany through the lens of posthumanism. She also holds an MA in History of Art from University College London.

Caitlin is the winner of the Association for Art History’s 2019 Postgraduate Dissertation Prize for her essay, ‘Gebärpflicht: The Subtractive Posthumanism of the Reproductive Body in Weimar Germany’.