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Miriam Klemm

PhD Candidate of the 2nd Cohort


Research Project

Overshadowed by the Pill – The Development of Male Contraceptive Technology

Since the success of the female contraceptive pill, male contraceptive research has taken a back foot to research directed at women’s bodies. Despite this, researchers and advocates have continued to pursue innovation in male contraceptive technologies. The World Health Organisation (WHO), for example, established a task force in the 1970s to coordinate global research and development of long-acting, reversible contraceptives (LARCs) for men. The results of the third WHO large-scale, international trial on a hormonal approach to male contraception were published in October 2016. 

World-wide, men today still rely on methods of fertility control that are few in number, ineffective or irreversible. Women are left with the choice as well as the burdens of birth control technologies. The development of LARCs for men progresses slowly. The traditional driver of medical development, the pharmaceutical industry, is not involved in the project and the international public health sector faces a dilemma of representation: sexual and reproductive health is mostly negotiated as women’s health. 

While the WHO no longer plays a crucial role in funding and coordinating research on possible male LARCs, other organizations are investing in the innovation of male contraception. The National Institute of Health (NIH) in the USA has decided to fund early research into possible male contraceptives and, thus, to leave the path of hormonal contraception, instead exploring various ways to interfere with male fertility. In India, a non-hormonal contraceptive gel for men was invented in the 1980s and is presently in phase III of clinical trials being run by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR). The Parsemus Foundation, a small non-profit enterprise, has bought the patent for this gel and has been developing it in the USA for the US-market since 2010. The Population Council, also located in the USA, is currently developing a male hormonal contraceptive and seeking to advocate for male involvement in family planning.

This PhD project sets out to explore the efforts made to develop a male contraceptive in India and the USA over the last decade. I will focus on the actors, their knowledge, and in particular, on their reflexive strategies of innovation to not only invent male contraceptive technologies within a protected space but also to distribute them into the wider sociotechnical regime. The first empirical research phase was realized in New Delhi and Jaipur, India, between October and November 2016 and the second empirical research phase took place between May and August 2017 in the USA.



"Slips Contraceptifs: Verhütungsmittel für Männer* - Warum es so wenig gibt und was wir tun können." Talk and Workshop, 11/2018, Leipzig and Berlin.

“Innovating Male Contraception in an International Field of Research – Decolonizing and Bottom-up Interventions.” 7th STS Italia Conference – Technoscience From Below,  06/2018, Università di Padova.

“The Development of Male Contraceptive Technologies from a Feminist and a Post-Colonial Perspective.” Contraception and Gender Conference, 12/2017, Paris.

“The Development of Male Contraceptive Technologies from a Feminist and a Post-Colonial Perspective.” 4S Conference - STS (In)Sensibilities, 09/2017, Boston.

“Studying the Development of Male Contraceptive Technologies – Methodological Considerations.” Qualitative Data Analysis Colloquium, 07/2017, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley.

„Can the Public Health Sector Innovate Contraception?“ 4S/EASST Conference – Science and Technology by other Means: Exploring collectives, spaces and futures, 09/2016, Barcelona.

„Overshadowed by the Pill – Development of Male Contraceptive Technology“. Workshop Masculinity, Health and Medicine, 04/2016, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

„Imaginings of future male contraceptive technologies". Changing Worlds Conference - Engaging Science and Technology in Art, Academia and Activism, 11/2015, Institut für Höhere Studien, Wien.



Klemm, M. (2018): Innovation für die Samenleiter. In: Hergesell, J.; Maibaum, A.; Minnetian, C.; Sept, A. (Eds.): Innovationsphänomene. Modi und Effekte der Innovationsgesellschaft. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 103-124.

Klemm, M. (2017): "Overshadowed by the Pill – Die Entwicklung männlicher Langzeitverhütungsmittel." Sexuologie – Zeitschrift für Sexualmedizin, Sexualtherapie und Sexualwissenschaft  24 (1-2), 11–18.

Klemm, M. (2016): "Keine Pille für den Mann – Vergeschlechtlichung in der Entwicklung von Kontrazeptiva." In: Powision Magazin – Differenzen 18, 65-68.



05 - 09/2017
University of California Berkeley:
Visiting Scholar at the Department of Gender and Women Studies. Funded by the Fulbright Commission.
04/2015 - 03/2018
Technical University Berlin:
DFG Graduate School "Innovation Society Today: The Reflexive Creation of Novelty"

02/2014 - 09/2014
University of Vienna & University of Leipzig:
Master of Arts in Erasmus Mundus Global Studies
Master thesis: "Study on the contribution of the alumni and diaspora to the Joint Africa-EU Strategy – Gender Perspectives"
02/2014 - 09/2014
Research Assistant at the Global and European Studies Institute, Leipzig
06/2013 - 09/2013
Research Assistant at the Research Institute "Kultur – Pflanzen – Konzepte", Vienna
10/2007 - 09/2009
University of Cologne:
Bachelor of Arts
in Philosophy & Cultural Anthropology, Bachelor thesis: "Die Transformation des Gender-Pluralismus in Indonesien und Malaysia"

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