Gender and the Challenge of the New Reproductive Technologies: A Cross-Cultural Perspective
In some recent influential theoretical formulations, the new reproductive technologies have been represented as posing profound challenges to conventional and culture-bound understandings of motherhood, fatherhood and the family. On this view, technologies such as in vitro fertilization, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, and the use of donor gametes, among others, have the potential to destabilize what was once considered the “natural” basis of reproduction and human relatedness. A weaker vision of what is “natural” reproduction and kinship leads, in turn, to a greater emphasis on self-conscious “choice” in people’s reproductive decisions, and ultimately, undermines dominant understandings of the Western, genetically-related, heterosexual nuclear family. However, a growing number of anthropological studies empirically challenges this position. In this talk, I describe selected ethnographic examples from the heterogeneous array of cross-cultural responses to the new reproductive technologies. I argue that however creative or ingenious such responses to the new reproductive technologies have been in specific instances, most often they have worked to reinforce conventional family patterns and gender roles.
Dr Eugenia Georges
Department of Anthropology, Rice University