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Accepted Paper:

Disrupting Reproduction in Kenya  
Sarah Seddig (University of Copenhagen)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on the rhetoric of FemTech in Nairobi, Kenya, this paper examines the implications of the private tech-sector's ‘investment’ in reproductive technologies beyond market expansion by questioning how it actively shapes narratives on how to best 'disrupt reproduction' in low-resource settings.

Paper long abstract:

The emergence of Female Technology (FemTech), a growing digital health market specifically aimed at women’s sexual and reproductive health, raises concerns about control and power over women’s reproductive bodies and the value of their reproductive health data. While smartphone apps and data-driven diagnostic devices expeditiously collect, analyse and store personal data on reproductive bodies and behaviour, they seem particularly attractive for low-resource contexts in which access to healthcare facilities and reproductive services remain limited. Not least the COVID-19 pandemic and its exacerbation of inequalities in Sub-Saharan Africa intensified pervasive shifts to digitalise and privatise healthcare delivery across Kenya – where private companies increasingly fill the void of healthcare provision.

Based on 8-months of ethnographic fieldwork in Kenya, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic between 2021-2022, this contribution focuses on HealthTech startups in Kenya’s tech-ecosystem ‘Silicon Savannah’ and health practitioners/patients in private health clinics across multiple informal settlements in Nairobi. Analysing the narration of reproductive technologies such as ultrasound screening devices, digital fertility tracking, or IVF as ‘empowering’ tools to do, undo, or prevent pregnancies, it offers a critical analysis of the rhetorical dimension in which national and international tech-enterprises operate. In this dimension, the rhetoric of disruption serves as a discursive strategy for capitalist expansion through the introduction of FemTech as a novel data-driven market. The paper argues, that the private sector's investment in reproductive technologies goes beyond market expansion by discussing the adverse implications of narrating FemTech as an opportunity to disrupt (in)fertility, pregnancy, and reproduction in low-resource settings

Panel P141
Doing and undoing reproduction [Medical Anthropology Europe [MAE]
  Session 2