Embodied Progress: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception

Embodied Progress: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception

Embodied Progress: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception

Embodied Progress: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception

Synopsis

New reproductive technologies, such as in vitro fertilisation, have been the subject of intense public discussion and debate worldwide. In addition to difficult ethical, moral, personal and political questions, new techniques 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.

Excerpt

This book attempts an anthropological project, though not in the manner accustomed to many anthropologists. The anthropology of contemporary Euro-American societies is becoming more well-established within the discipline, but anthropology retains a strong commitment to its legacy of cross-cultural comparison and its roots in the study of non-western societies. This legacy is, as everyone knows, a contested one, and much has been written on the construction of cultural ‘others’ within anthropological writings. Hence, contemporary anthropology exists in a state of tension, between the desire to continue to offer ethnographic representations and analysis of cultural diversity, whilst at the same time striving to be conscious of the legacy of its own cultural preoccupations and dispensations in so doing.

Embodied Progress works on the near side of the here and there that defines the anthropological project. By so doing it invites a traffic between the autocritique of anthropological writing and representation, and the continuing project of ethnographic documentation of cultural forms. In this book, the cultural forms are both English and Euro-American, and they are both ethnographically and historically described. This form of description proceeds as a sequence of frames or perspectives. Rather than making all of the connections explicit, the frames are set up to provide room for mutiple refractions.

I begin by revisiting a historical chapter in anthropological theory, namely the celebrated controversy known as the ‘virgin birth’ debates. I argue in Chapter 1 that these debates demonstrate the importance of a biological model of ‘the facts of life’ within anthropology. As such, they reveal a great deal about the pre-suppositions structuring anthropological explanation, not only

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