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The Scholar & Feminist Online is a webjournal published three times a year by the Barnard Center for Research on Women
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Double Issue: 9.1-9.2: Fall 2010 / Spring 2011
Guest Edited by Rebecca Jordan-Young
Critical Conceptions: Technology, Justice, and the Global Reproductive Market


Rebecca Jordan-Young

The pieces in this issue of S&F Online bridge two critical threads of feminist analysis that are only rarely brought into direct conversation with one another: legal, market, and science and technology studies analyses of reproductive technologies, on the one hand, and reproductive justice analyses, on the other. The spark for the issue came from the 2009 Scholar & Feminist conference on "New Technologies of Life," at which speakers repeatedly emphasized the need to shift the conversation about reproductive technologies from the individual "choices" that people make about building their families to the contexts in which those "choices" are made and discussed.

Contributors, many of whom spoke at that conference, were invited to think broadly about reproduction, including new technologies, but also adoption, so-called "non-traditional" families, and the aspects of reproduction that are about family maintenance rather than simply conception and birth. This broad approach to reproductive technologies is in keeping with a definition of technologies as "hybrid assemblages of knowledges, instruments, persons, systems of judgment, buildings and spaces, underpinned at the programmatic level by certain presuppositions and assumptions about human beings."[1] Thus, we don't only look at those kinds of technology that typically go under the umbrella of new reproductive technologies (NRTs) or assisted reproduction technologies (ART), but also at what might be called UN-reproductive technologies (birth control and abortion). We look to technologies that are employed by/for those with both high values in the reproductive futures market (e.g., egg donation, sperm donation, IVF) and those whose reproductive futures are feared and despised (e.g., pregnancy surveillance, forced sterilization). We look at both "hard" technologies (those that require science, labs, and equipment), and also "soft" technologies like adoption and the surveillance of pregnant women for "risky" behaviors. Beyond the activities and materials required to bring a child to the point of birth, human reproduction also involves the work of rearing children (and, in an even broader sense, the ongoing domestic labor involved in feeding, clothing, and otherwise caring for people's human needs throughout their lives). Thus, we look at the labor of nannies and babysitters, who are often dropped out from the complex calculation of how many "parents" a modern child can have.

With these broad definitions of technology and reproduction in mind, we posed the following questions to contributors: How do we create a feminist practice that is honest about the political economy of reproduction, on the one hand, and respectful of the affective dimensions of people's family-building practices, on the other? How do we move beyond the observation that reproductive technologies often serve to reinscribe conservative notions of what constitutes a "natural" family, and begin to explore ways in which such outcomes are not necessarily inevitable? How might critical feminist analyses affect the future of reproduction?

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