As the public and scientists debate whether to extend the 14-day rule on embryo research, Katie Dow is reminded of a strange legal case from 1989 involving the use of human foetuses in artwork.
On the 5th and 6th of November the Fertility Show took place in London. This event hosted “over 100 exhibitors, top names in fertility and up to 60 seminars over the 2 days making it the biggest fertility event in the world.” ReproSoc was there!
The recent developments in world politics provide a good opportunity to re-examine ideas about reproductive rights; what is embedded in these rights? How they have changed over time? And what are the limitations of reproductive freedom?
Going home for Christmas, in my case, means traveling from England to Poland. Apart from catching up with family and friends, this time of the year is also about catching up on Polish politics. Among the myriad political changes that Poland has seen in 2016 is a momentous challenge to women’s reproductive rights – significant in itself but also revealing as part of a broader political transformation whose crisis we are witnessing as the eventful year is coming to an end.
In the aftermath of the US presidential election result, is it helpful to see Donald Trump’s victory as a triumph of sexism over racism?
Earlier this year in January, Katie Dow and I went in search of the missing early Warnock files that we had never found either in the Burnley, Lancashire holdings of the Department of Health Repository, or in the National Archives at Kew. Although it was a wonderful surprise to discover a complete set of freshly declassified files of this famous Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology waiting for us on our arrival, the visit ended with one major disappointment, which was that the crucial paper I have been looking for since 2010 was not in any of the places it should have been, and is apparently not in the new files.
In Simon Stone’s adaptation of Lorca’s Yerma, the main character is suffering from the grief of not having a longed-for child; her sadness is an ancient, visceral one. IVF is, in this updated narrative, simply another available technology – something to try rather than the answer to the problem.
World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is upon us once again, celebrated annually from 1st -7th August. This is a week during which event founder and organizer, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, hopes to mobilize institutions and individuals around the world to promote feeding babies from the breast. Each year WBW has a theme. Last year’s theme was Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make it Work! This year’s theme is Breastfeeding: a key to sustainable development and it is being explored in five different ways, one of which focuses on the relationship between breastfeeding and the environment
« What is the EU? », was the second question that was typed on Google from the UK… just after Brexit was announced. This is not a joke. It seems that a lot of people did not know what they were saying “Leave” or “Remain” to, when they took the time to go to the poll and vote. This is the cruel reality that the UK democracy is facing. What kind of failure does it express?
I am reading Donna Haraway’s new book for an interview we will do together for Theory, Culture and Society and it is always remarkable to rediscover in her work both the enduring prescience of her analytic work and the sheer pleasure of reading her exuberant style. As anyone who has heard her speak will know, Haraway is an exhilarating speaker who reliably delivers a unique kind of oratory that is based on notes and meticulous preparation, but is performed with great spontaneity and creativity.
Changing Fertility: Social, Demographic and Ethical Consequences of Assisted Conception Technologies
The Changing Fertility Forum in Cambridge has laid the groundwork for an exploration of new reproductive patterns amid the growing use of assisted reproductive technologies.
I participated in Unfolding Organogenesis - an interactive drop-in exhibition on display at the Edinburgh International Science Festival earlier this spring - after being involved in its conceptualisation and development together with EuroStemCell. During my ethnographic fieldwork with stem cell communicators and scientists in Scotland, I have spent much time observing how scientific ideas are communicated in speech. Yet, hours and hours of folding 'beating hearts' with Edinburgh festival visitors reminded me of the importance of scientists’ hands when they are growing cells.
More than 30 years of ethnographic research on IVF has demonstrated two contrasting worldwide trends. One is the enormous variation in the governance and regulation of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), including striking divergences between otherwise similar adjacent countries, such as Norway and Sweden, or Canada and the USA...
The proposal to include fertility education in the school curriculum has raised major controversy. While its supporters claim it would empower people to make informed choices, others are concerned it would add unnecessary pressure on young adults and on women in particular.
On screen, men are usually depicted thinking about fatherhood when their partner announces she’s pregnant, their child is kidnapped or they’re going through a divorce. So, there is something notable about the pilot episode of Netflix show Master of None, which explores one 30-year-old man’s decision about whether he’d like to become a parent one day.
On a Monday night, through the restless commuter crowds of London’s Old Street underground station, I catch my first glimpse of Timeless: a new pop up shop devoted entirely to stimulating debate on egg freezing.
Writing the Editor's Introduction for Marilyn Strathern's new book was difficult, but it gave me some new ideas about gender as a means of reproduction. Her 1973 book on gender would have been an instant feminist classic had it been published, but the series it was written for folded, and so its only coming into print 40 years later. Even now the account of gender it gives is highly original -- in part because of how it argues gender recapitulates relationality. From this point of view we can see that Marilyn Strathern has always been concerned with the means of reproduction -- in all its varied forms.
The blog depicts the author’s personal experience of receiving leaflets about underground egg trade when she was an undergraduate in China. It also analyzes the monetary value assignment rules in gamete black market.
As sexuality is increasingly disconnected from parenthood, people may spend most of their reproductive years without giving too much thought about their fertility.
The Danish girl is loosely inspired by Lili Elbe’s autobiography ‘Man into Woman’. While reinforcing gender stereotypes, the film does well in underlining that gender is a performance that is studied and acted.
First bred in sociology, ReproSoc began as three. No sheep were there, It's only fair, To mention,retrospectively.
I saw orcas in a marine park in British Columbia when I was a child. My memories of it now are impressionistic – the bright blue of the chlorinated pools, the glossy black and white markings of the orcas, the oohs and aahs of the crowd not dissimilar to those you hear at a fireworks show.
In September, I participated in a small interdisciplinary conference at the University of Stavanger. The conference theme was ‘Animals in the Anthropocene’ and the panels considered the many different ways in which humans interact with other animals in contemporary life, set against the backdrop of climate change and increasing anthropogenic effects on the environment.
Between Policy and Practice: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Assisted Reproductive Technologies and Equitable Access to Health Care
In July 2015, the Brocher Foundation, set on the banks of Lake Leman in the idyllic countryside outside Geneva, became host to an international conference titled “Between Policy and Practice: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Assisted Reproductive Technologies and Equitable Access to Health Care”.
During the month of May, the beautiful Aegean island of Lesbos became the inimitable location of a large conference on the Anthropological and Legal Challenges of Assisted Reproduction Technologies. Social science researchers from all over Europe, including UK, Greece, Poland, Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Cyprus, Italy, and Switzerland, committed to three days of in-depth discussions about the (in)fertile citizens of Europe.
In March of 2015, Reprosoc held a small workshop on the theme of “China Repro Tech”. During this two-day event, workshop participants discussed pre-circulated chapters of forthcoming manuscripts by Dr. Ayo Wahlberg, a Lecturer at the University of Copenhagen’s Institute of Anthropology and Dr. Janelle Lamoreaux, a Research Associate in ReproSoc. Ayo’s book, currently titled Good Quality, is an exploration of the formation and routinization of sperm freezing in China.
In December, we held the second of three conferences linked with the IVF Histories and Cultures Project, co-organised by Sarah Franklin, Martin Johnson and Nick Hopwood. This conference focused on the early years of IVF in Oldham, Lancashire. We were delighted to welcome some of the clinical staff who worked alongside Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards at the time as well as members of Robert Edwards’ family.
On September 11th and 12th, Liberty Barnes and Christina Benninghaus organized and hosted a conference, entitled “Con/Tested: Sperm, Sterility, and Masculinity,” dedicated to the historical and social study of male sterility and infertility. Thirty scholars participated in the event, including historians, sociologists, social psychologists, and anthropologists.
This March and April I have taken some time away from Cambridge and I headed southwest to sunny Arizona where I am working at Arizona State University as a visiting scholar and fellow of the Embryo Project. The Embryo Project, directed by Jane Maienschein and Manfred Laubichler, brings together researchers from a variety of disciplines who look at the history, science and various issues surrounding the growing fields of embryology, development and reproductive medicine.
On Saturday, I attended The Other Dinner at the Waag Society in Amsterdam. The Waag is the oldest building in the city that isn’t a church, as its turrets and winding staircases attest. Being so old, it has also seen many uses, from weigh station (hence the name) to the setting for Rembrandt’s painting, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicholaes Tulp to, most recently, a space for researchers, designers and artists interested in exploring the intersections of science, art and technology.
When I became a research associate with ReproSoc in October, it felt like embarking on a new and exciting journey. From my previous experience working with Sarah Franklin, I expected that this intellectual and professional journey would get me thinking not only about the important effects that IVF and other reproductive technologies have had, and are continuing to have, on the way we think about life itself, but also to see new, and probably strange, connections in the world around me.
The Overlapping Histories of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and Artificial Insemination by Donor (AID)
I have recently visited the Mortimer Market Centre, a sexual health clinic in London, where I gave a talk about the concurrent histories of HIV and sperm donation. In different ways and under contrasting circumstances, both HIV/AIDS and assisted reproduction have played a substantial role in the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people whose History Month we are celebrating this month. But the two histories have rarely been told together - despite the fact that they are intimately connected.