Examines the meaning of “life” in an era of emerging biotechnology.
What happens to prevailing beliefs about the uniqueness of individual life when life can be cloned? Or to traditional understandings of family relationships when a child can have up to five parents? These are some of the questions addressed by Valerie Hartouni in her consideration of the cultural effects of new reproductive technologies as reflected in video images, popular journalism, scientific debates, legal briefs, and policy decisions.
In Cultural Conceptions, Hartouni tracks the circulation and communication of various myths, images, and stories pertaining to new reproductive technologies and their effects, both imagined and real, during the past two decades. While addressing topics ranging from surrogacy and cloning to adoption, ultrasound imaging, and abortion, Hartouni looks to American popular culture for clues to what these new — and not so new — reproductive practices tell us about issues of personhood.
Hartouni investigates the emergence of new anxieties about the nature of selfhood as well as the recurrence of age-old myths regarding individuality, sexuality, property, and family. She argues that both are being played out in cultural contests over the meaning and organization of women’s reproductive capacity. In her discussion of provocative issues such as The Bell Curve controversy and the Baby M. case, Hartouni traces the dialectic of crisis and containment unleashed by reproductive technologies. Ultimately, however, Cultural Conceptions argues that the anxieties that surround new reproductive technologies provide openings for alternative understandings and practices of life to emerge andchallenge those currently in place.
A thoughtful, daring, and original look at this complex set of issues, Cultural Conceptions provides an much-needed guide to our nation’s psyche as we approach the new millennium.