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."
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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