EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures
- Giulia Zanini (University of Padova) email
- Noemie Merleau-Ponty (Cambridge University ReproSoc) email
This panel focuses on the many biomedical reproductive practices and objects which are often approached as the search for or deviation from a specific family model and which rather suggest the emergence of a multiplicity of practices which develop and expand within, around and beyond kinship.
Biomedicalisation of reproduction within contemporary societies has made room for isolation and technological control of different stages of the human reproductive process. Gametes, embryos, foetuses, umbilical cord and breast milk have multiple chances of escaping a given reproductive path and of taking different trajectories. Moreover, reproductive biotechnologies invite medical professionals -e.g. physicians and biologists- and unusual "patients" - donors and surrogates- to inhabit and serve reproductive processes at specific stages.
This panel aims at exploring the trajectories through which reproductive biomedicalisation produces experiences of "derivation", "translation", "re-introduction", "superproduction", "transformation", "destruction" and "lateral relationship".
Spare embryos, surrogacy, embryo stem cells, cell banks, egg-sharing, cryopreservation, egg-freezing, treatment of early preterm babies are some of the phenomena challenging the biological, temporal, cultural, ethical and socio-economic limits which were until very recently deemed unquestionable. This panel invites a discussion about the many biomedical reproductive practices and objects which are often approached as the search for, consolidation of or deviation from a specific heteronormative dyadic family model and which seem to rather suggest the emergence of a multiplicity of practices which sprout, develop and expand within, around and beyond kinship.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Innovating kinship? Danish sperm donors' practices of relatedness
Based on fieldwork at Danish sperm banks and interviews with Danish sperm donors, I explore donors' practices of relatedness in order to discuss how their experiences may inform anthropological theory on kinship and relatedness.
What is known about sperm donors' practices of relatedness is rather limited. Most research has focused almost exclusively on recipients of donor semen and the children who are born through donor insemination. The other part of the relatedness equation - men that donate semen and their families - is almost always disregarded. How kinship and relatedness matter to them and what kind of relations they deem important are narratives that hardly ever figure when kinship and relatedness are discussed, conceptualized, and researched. Based on ethnographic fieldwork at Danish sperm banks and qualitative interviews with Danish sperm donors, I explore how men that donate their semen in Denmark make sense of the multiple connections involved in and established through sperm donation. This exploration does not begin with the assumption that certain types of relations are more important than others. Rather, I am interested in how Danish sperm donors make sense of the multiplicity of the donor insemination kinship universe. These insights shall be used in order to discuss how the experiences of Danish sperm donors may inform contemporary anthropological theory on matters of kinship and relatedness.
Unfolded maternity in surrogacy: rethinking the relationship between "procreation" and "begetting"
Instead of seeing surrogacy as a separating process - which is dividing genetics, pregnancy, and motherhood - we would like to discuss the opportunity of considering surrogacy as a relational process - a « totus » as philosopher Vincent Descombes would say - in which childbirth have a crucial place.
Although surrogacy has been forbidden in France since 1994, nowadays hundreds of French gay and heterosexual couples are turning to this technique abroad to build a family. Women who, because they've lost their uterus or don't have a functional one for whatever reason, are relying on a "cross-border surrogacy" arrangement to have a child.
Apart from the difficulties encountered (ethical questions, very high cost of this technique in the US and Canada, transcriptions into the French civil registry…), how is the "intended mother" recognized, by others and herself, as the mother of the child she didn't carry? How do the intended mother and the surrogate mother find their own places in this multiple-motherhood, when the link between delivery and filiation is so strongly naturalized and seems so obvious? What is at stake when a woman bears and gives birth to a child without recognizing herself as the mother?
Our work focuses on the relationship between "procreation" and "begetting": we suggest a new distinction by introducing "childbirth" as a crucial part of the process. We will describe the three types of surrogacy (with the egg of the intended mother, with an egg donor or with the surrogate's egg); it will help us to understand the different strategies of appropriation of a role or a status (mother/non-mother) for those involved in the surrogacy process, and will shed a new light on gender issues in the context of ART's with a third-party donor.
The fetus as a kin: the case of fetal sonogram in Spain
The paper is based on an ethnographic research, conducted in Spain, aimed at understanding the process of turning the human fetus into a physical subject. It shows how the different uses of sonogram allow to shape the fetus simultaneously as an individual, a kin and a patient.
The paper is based on an ethnographic research, conducted in a Spanish city, aimed at understanding the process of turning the human fetus into a physical subject. Participant observation and interviews have been carried on in different settings, including public and private health facilities, trade shows for expecting parents, and political street demonstrations. In this way, an insight was gained into the social and cultural production, use, diffusion and implications of knowledge about - and practices of - the fetal body.
This paper will focus on the circulation of technologies, techniques and images across these contexts. Fetal sonogram, as well as the images and sounds it produces, is attributed a pivotal role in antenatal care; nevertheless, their use goes beyond it, and they are expanding outside health care settings, with different scopes and implications. Sonogram's intimate and familiar aspect - already described and analyzed in anthropology - is gaining momentum. It is used to reassure the pregnant women, to create memories, and to provide them with different kinds of antenatal encounters with the fetus, eventually to be shared with partners or relatives.
The proposed paper shows how the different uses of sonogram, as well as the refusal to use it, allow to shape the fetus simultaneously as an individual, a kin and a patient.
(Dis)assembling kin: representations of race and kinship
This paper examines the images that comprise hospital based websites of Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs), which is situated as a form of technology in the reproductive process, to reveal how they promote particular forms of heteronormative kinship and draw from "normative" racializations.
Since the 1980s neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) have proliferated in the United States. These space are where reproduction and prematurity are technologically mediated, thus earning them the lauded position of "savior." Yet other aspects of the social are also mediated in NICUs. Specifically, while prematurity in the U.S. Is often linked to race, and familial making is made flexible through various forms of technology, the representation of both infants and families in NICUs masterfully privileges whiteness and heteronormative kin structures. Because race and heterosexuality fuel so much about reproduction, as Dorothy Roberts points out in "Killing the Black Body," I explore how kinship is assembled and disassembled in the representational practices of (social media) hospital websites of NICUs. This paper draws on two years of fieldwork on prematurity and neonatal intensive care units and seeks to explore how queerness and non-whiteness are dis assembled in NICU's? I ask in what ways does these (social) media practices orchestrate ideas of hope, futures and projects of kinship perfectibility.
Reproducing the nation or maintaining families elsewhere: the motherhood mandate for Ukrainian egg donors
In this paper I would like to explore the contradicting kinship accounts of Ukrainian egg donors in relation to their children, their traveling ova and its international recipients and examine how they reconcile their role in enabling international couples to become parents with their mandate to reproduce the Ukrainian nation.
This paper is based on the results of the fieldwork conducted in Ukraine during summer 2015, that included in-depth interviews with 12 Ukrainian women who donated their eggs to international recipients and 21 professionals in fertility clinics and donor recruitment agencies. I examine how these narratives reconcile the role of Ukrainian egg donors in enabling international couples to become parents with their position as mothers of their own children and of the nation. Since they are utilizing their reproductive capacities to maintain the families elsewhere, they are often not recognized as “normal” mothers by medical profession and broader public and, thus, are rendered precarious in the fulfillment of their parental and citizenship roles. As a result, they have to reclaim motherhood as constructed socially and dependent on the material conditions of life. In this way the experience of cross-border ova-donation allows them to undermine the priority of genetic connection and the necessity to be responsible for the reproduction of the nation through one’s genetic offspring. However, they are also reinforcing the motherhood and citizenship mandate for women by arguing that the main reason why they underwent egg donation was in order to take care of their children and educate them into “proper” citizens. In this paper I would like to explore these contradicting kinship accounts of Ukrainian egg donors in relation to their children, their traveling ova and its international recipients.
Becoming mothers through the failure of medical assisted reproductive technologies: adoptive mothers in Greece
Based on ethnographic research about adoptions in Greece, this paper looks at the meaning of failure of ART for the construction of maternal self through adoption.
Most women in Greece who are to adopt or have adopted a child have already experienced involuntary infertility in all its "tragic" effects. The existing research on IVF in Greece has stressed the tension and anguish of middle-class childless couples, showing that these couples try every way possible to "overcome" their "problem", striving to combine all available means of having a child when "nature refuses to help". They enter a "journey" which involves practices that they consider, as they have often confessed, "afflictive, painful, difficult, time-consuming".
However, this is also a journey into the symbolic interpretations and significations of the ways in which people define the "naturality" and the "actuality" of their kinship relations. It is a journey that allows these couples to arrange the experiences to which they are subject "in a certain order" and to integrate them in their own cultural perceptions, striving to make sense of them. In this sense, unsuccessful cycles of in vitro fertilization (IVF), consecutive miscarriages, and disappointments are exactly what forms the maternal subject and demonstrates that the adoptive mothers are "real", good" and "proper" ones (Paxson 2004).
Based on ethnographic research about adoptions in Greece, this paper looks at the meaning of failure of ART for the construction of maternal self through adoption. The "pain" of Medical Technologies to their bodies, the pain of failure, I will argue, is precisely what helps those women to be fully discursive autobiographers of their maternal subjectivity.
The ethical dilemma of sterilization as a reproductive technology
This paper raises questions about the ethics of sterilization based on a 25-year study that i undertook of Puerto Rican women in New York that shows how sterilization, originally a method of population control in Puerto Rico, was transformed into a popular method of fertility control.
Sterilization is one of the oldest reproductive technologies known today. In the United States and Europe sterilization has its origins in the racist, sexist, and classist ideology of the eugenic movement. Yet, in the 21st century, sterilization is one of the most popular methods of fertility control in the world. For example, by 1982, the rate of sterilization in Puerto Rico was 35%, one of the highest rates of sterilization in the world. I anchor my discussion of the ethics of sterilization in a 25-year study that I undertook of Puerto Rican women in New York that shows how sterilization, originally a method of population control in Puerto Rico, was adopted as a popular method of fertility control. As a reproductive technology, sterilization is neither good nor bad; its ethical status depends on how it is used. Using an integral analysis this study sheds light on how reproductive technologies such as sterilization can be both harmful as well as beneficial to women depending on their historical, personal, cultural, and social conditions. The medicalization of Puerto Rican women's reproductive history raises important ethical questions about sterilization as well as other methods of assisted reproductive technology such as invitro-fertilization, gamete donors, and transnational surrogacy. Some of these questions are: Who controls reproductive technology? Who has access to it and how is it used? Do these technologies place women and children at risk? How do we ensure that these practices are not exploitative?
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.