Embodied Progress: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
New reproductive technologies, such as in vitrio fertilization, have been the subject of intense public discussion and debate worldwide. In addition to difficult ethical, moral, personal and political questions, new technologies of assisted conception also raise novel socio-cultural dilemmas. How are parenthood, kinship and procreation being redefined in the context of new reproductive technologies? Has reproductive choice become part of consumer culture? Embodied Progress offers a unique perspective on these and other cultural dimensions of assisted conception techniques. Based on ethnographic research in Britain, this study foregrounds the experiences of women and couples who undergo IVF, whilst also asking how such experiences may be variously understood.
the basic facts concerning the relationship between coitus and pregnancy. ‘The so-called primitive ignorance of physiological paternity’, he wrote, ‘is nothing else but a very imperfect knowledge that intercourse is a necessary though not sufficient condition of the Conception among the anthropologists 37 woman being “opened up” as my Trobriand friends put it’ (1937: xxxi). Hence, while affirming the ethnographic fact of stated ignorance of either physiological maternity or paternity,
embark on IVF it’s almost as if you are going to get there in the end, but it may take two or three times. Whereas it just seems to be incredibly more difficult than that, that almost as if the intimation is that there is definitely going to be a positive end result in it so you get from the media8, to me, all of the positive sides of it, of 112 The ‘obstacle course’ the women who are having the babies, but you don’t hear an awful lot about the women who start doing tests for IVF and don’t
absolutely bursting, I mean I’m talking about bursting to go to the toilet, and then they are pressing something on you [the scanner], all you can think of, you are not thinking about follicles, you are just thinking ‘I’m dying to go to the toilet’, you know, and that’s all you can think of, you see. It sounds silly, doesn’t it, I don’t know. (Catharine Lewis) A definitive feature of the ultrasound scanning procedure, then, is the requirement that women exercise physical control over a
It’s very difficult to…that sounds very black and white, and it’s something that can easily be said by someone who is not participating, but there are so many shades of grey in between. It’s like saying be realistic, so expect the possibility of not succeeding, either in this attempt or ever, but you’ve got to be positive enough to be going through—you’ve got to want to succeed, but if you don’t succeed you’ve got to accept it. Now to me, that’s well, not just thinking about it, but in actuality,
determination and endurance is required to continue treatment.7 These strategies can involve complex mental ‘self-management’: an important component of ‘living IVF’ or of inhabiting the world of achieved conception. It has been argued that this determination can become an end unto itself, as can any quest for an elusive goal. Moreover, it has been suggested that many of the features of the experience of IVF are only visible in retrospect. Going forward, women such as those interviewed are