Academic journal article Hecate

InterUterine: Exploring the Reprotech Body through an Interspecies Aesthetic of Care

Academic journal article Hecate

InterUterine: Exploring the Reprotech Body through an Interspecies Aesthetic of Care

Article excerpt

What does it mean to be a woman in a world where men can give birth? What does it mean to be a man in a world where artificial wombs enable embryos to grow outside a woman's body? What does it mean to be human in a world where human organs can be grown in a sheep, where pig organs can be transplanted into humans, where human, plant, bacterial and animal DNA, cells, tissues and body parts become exchangeable?

As the definitions of body, gender and species become increasingly ambiguous through contemporary biotechnologies, it is vital that dialogue is undertaken around the consequences and meanings of these actions. Laura Fantone and Rosi Braidotti demonstrate convincingly that biotechnology, biomedicine and bioscience are increasingly reliant upon a visual economy. (1) Consequently, aesthetic investigations become increasingly important. The emergence of artists using biotechnological techniques challenges many of our assumptions regarding both aesthetic and scientific values.

As a white lesbian in this biotech era, I am interested in the cultural and scientific discourses around the reproductive body. We are told that we are in an 'infertility epidemic,' whilst being simultaneously bombarded with glowing images of 'Yummy Mummies.' In a world where children are starving, resources are being massively depleted and species are becoming extinct at an unprecedented rate, we are exhorted to 'make babies.'

As a lesbian approaching the end of her reproductive life my feelings about my reproductive body are complex and highly ambiguous. I struggle with an urge to produce my 'own' child, when the need for foster parents is dire and when the resources required to conceive, gestate and parent are enormous. In addition the technologies which would enable an 'own' child are highly invasive and expensive.

In Western medicine, male bodies are normative: women's bodies are only considered as reproductive fragments whereas intersexed bodies are pathologised. Much has been written about the fragmentation of women's bodies particularly through medical imaging technologies. (2) Recent important writings on intersex and the construction of gender through medicine and anatomy include Marianne van den Wijngaard's 1997 Reinventing the Sexes: The Biomedical Construction of Femininity and Masculinity, Alice Dreger's 1998 Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex, Suzanne J. Kessler's 1999 Lessons from the Intersexed, and Sharon Preves' 2003 Intersex and Identity: The Contested Self.

As bioscience becomes increasingly technologised, our reproductive bodies are increasingly surveilled, manipulated and commodified. The reproductive cyborg is a daily reality for most Western women: over 100 million are thought to take the pill daily and rapidly increasing numbers access a range of assisted reproductive technologies. Sex and reproduction are no longer interdependent; sex does not necessarily mean reproduction and is no longer necessary for it. I am interested in the ways we talk about the reproductive cyborg--how it is normalised by culture and science, who benefits from it and who loses. I am interested in reintroducing the lived experience of reproductive bodies, in queering the reproductive cyborg.

InterUterine is an artistic project contributing to my research at SymbioticA, University of Western Australia on the aesthetics of care, the transbiological nature of our reproductive bodies, and the environmental and interspecies consequences of human reproduction. The transbiological--'biology that is not only born and bred, or born and made, but made and born'--is Sarah Franklin's figuration of the cyborg, simultaneously actual and metaphorical, a material-semiotic modality of rebellion and subversion of the binary of human/animal. (3) Transbiology describes the ubiquitous, fluid interchange of biological materials between and of species enabled through contemporary biotechnologies and biosciences. This exchange complicates the concept of unified subjectivity upon which humanness is predicted and reliant, disturbing notions of taxonomic hierarchies, nature/artifice, nature/culture and purity. …

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