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Problems of Conception

Problems of Conception: Issues of Law, Biotechnology, Individuals and Kinship

Marit Melhuus
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 186
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  • Book Info
    Problems of Conception
    Book Description:

    The Biotechnology Act in Norway, one of the most restrictive in Europe, forbids egg donation and surrogacy and has rescinded the anonymity clause with respect to donor insemination. Thus, it limits people's choice as to how they can procreate within the boundaries of the nation state. The author pursues this significant datum ethnographically and addresses the issues surrounding contemporary biopolitics in Norway. This involves investigating such fundamental questions as the relation between individual and society, meanings of kinship and relatedness, the moral status of the embryo and the role of science, religion and ethics in state policies. Even though the book takes reproductive technologies as its focus, it reveals much about vital processes that are central to contemporary Norwegian society.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-503-1
    Subjects: Anthropology, Health Sciences, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Chapter 1 Framing the Issues
    (pp. 1-22)

    The overall framing of this book is reproduction, writ large. It addresses some fundamental issues in contemporary Norwegian biopolitics. Reproduction is at the core of social transformation, and is central to both the material and symbolic understandings of social life. Reproduction – in its biological and social senses – is as Ginsburg and Rapp note, ‘inextricably bound up with the production of culture’ (Ginsburg and Rapp 1995a: 2). Thus, a study of social reproduction is also a study of cultural process. All societies have vested interests in reproduction, but, as anthropologists have documented, what these interests are and the way they are...

  5. Chapter 2 Children of One’s Own
    (pp. 23-46)

    I attended my first meeting and seminar of the Association for the Involuntary Childless (Forening for ufrivillig barnløse, FUB) towards the end of 1998.¹ This was my first encounter with ‘the field’. In the course of that day, my attention was particularly drawn towards two people, a man and a woman. They were both very active during the seminar, and especially so during the general assembly. They were extremely knowledgeable about the various issues being discussed, and more specifically concerned about the medical and economic aspects of infertility treatment. One issue that they raised was the question of tax deduction...

  6. Chapter 3 Better Safe than Sorry: Legislating Assisted Conception
    (pp. 47-70)

    In the introduction to her bookKinship, Law and the Unexpected, Strathern notes that in some places law and biotechnology work together whereas law and kinship often do not, in that notions of the embodied and distributed person sit uncomfortably with the legal subject (Strathern 2005: 10). An interesting point to pursue, ethnographically, is the form that these working relations take. The Norwegian law has, by consistently prohibiting egg donation, confronted the problem of the distributed person by partially negating the very possibility of its creation (in Norway). I say partially, in that sperm donation has been practised and tacitly...

  7. Chapter 4 The Inviolability of Motherhood
    (pp. 71-88)

    At the core of Norwegian understandings of kinship, as in Europe more generally, is the idea that ‘blood is thicker than water’. Blood has been – and to some degree still is – the metaphor used to designate the biological foundation of kinship relations and to indicate that it is the sharing of substance that makes people kin. To some extent in today’s lay understandings, notions of blood, biology and genes are interchangeable: they all point to some natural, substantial aspect of kinship which is assumed to be the foundation of kin relationships. However, it is an empirical question to what extent...

  8. Chapter 5 The Sorting Society: Knowledge, Selection, Ethics
    (pp. 89-108)

    In 1994, the legislation concerning ‘artificial procreation’ came under a more encompassing Biotechnology Act that included the regulation of technologies that impinge on reproduction, such as preimplantation diagnosis (PGD) and prenatal diagnosis (PND).² Norwegian policy makers at the time – as in 1987 – acted so as to limit the application of reproductive technologies. This they have done on the basis of a precautionary principle – and an awareness of what scientific progress in conjunction with these technologies might bring about. Underpinning the decisions of the policy makers are images of a possible future society and a will to direct its course, whether...

  9. Chapter 6 Concluding Reflections: Legal (Un)Certainties
    (pp. 109-120)

    In Norway, as elsewhere in the world, new reproductive technologies have had an ambivalent reception. These technologies have made possible forms of conception that, separating procreation from sexual intercourse, permits the fertilization of eggs and the creation of embryos outside the body. Thus what has been perceived as the natural link between conception, gestation and birth has been severed. An embryo can potentially be inserted into any woman’s uterus – irrespective of who provided the egg. This possibility has given rise to surrogacy, a practice that only over the past few years has become more common in Norway – and hence also...

  10. Postscript: Some Notes on Methodology
    (pp. 121-130)

    This book is the result of a multi-stranded – and multi-sited – research process. I have cast my net wide in order to be able to capture the complexity of the issues related to the incorporation and understandings of assisted reproductive practices in Norway. This has implied an involvement in many different social arenas and an engagement with many different sources and types of data. As mentioned in the Preface, my research was initially framed as part of a collaborative project on ‘Meanings of Kinship in Norway’, with a particular focus on the involuntary childless and assisted conception made possible by the...

  11. Appendix: Fertility Rates, Trends and Policies in Norway
    (pp. 131-134)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 135-152)
  13. References
    (pp. 153-166)
  14. Index
    (pp. 167-174)