Infertility around the Globe
New Thinking on Childlessness, Gender, and Reproductive Technologies
Publication Year: 2002
With infertility as the lens through which a wide range of social issues is explored, the contributors address a far-reaching array of topics: why infertility has been neglected in population studies, how the deeply gendered nature of infertility sets the blame squarely on women's shoulders, how infertility and its treatment transform family dynamics and relationships, and the distribution of medical and marital power. The chapters present informed and sophisticated investigations into cultural perceptions of infertility in numerous countries, including China, India, the nations of sub-Saharan Africa, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Egypt, Israel, the United States, and the nations of Europe.
Poised to become the quintessential reference on infertility from an international social science perspective, Infertility around the Globe makes a powerful argument that involuntary childlessness is a complex phenomenon that has far-reaching significance worldwide.
Published by: University of California Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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...1. Introduction. Interpreting Infertility: A View from the Social Sciences2. The Uses of a “Disease”: Infertility as Rhetorical VehicleGwynne L. Jenkins with Silvia Vargas Obando and Jose´ Badilla Navas / 17111. Is Infertility an Unrecognized Public Health and Population Problem?13. Infertility and Health Care in Countries with Less Resources:...
PART I: DISCOURSES AND DEBATES
1. Introduction. Interpreting Infertility: A View from the Social Sciences
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After decades of scholarly neglect, human reproduction, as a biologicalphenomenon that is socially constituted and culturally variable throughspace and time, has slowly gained the attention of social scientists from avariety of disciplines. Largely as a result of the feminist movement and theentrance of greater numbers of women into the academy, the past twenty-...
2. The Uses of a “Disease”: Infertility as Rhetorical Vehicle
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Infertility is a topic that evidently offers something for everyone. Since theadventinthelate1970sofinvitrofertilization(IVF)techniquestoenhancefertility and to bypass physical and biological impediments to procreation,infertility has increasingly attracted the attention of a diverse and growingconstituency,includingbehavioral,biological,andsocialscientists;scholars...
3. Fertile Ground: Feminists Theorize Infertility
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Infertility poses a prima facie tension for feminists. On the one hand, evenin an age of decreasing birthrates, voluntary childlessness, and increasingrates of infertility, involuntary childlessness is recognized as one of thegreatest forms of unhappiness and loss an adult woman might endure.Infertilityisfrequentlyexperiencedbywould-befathersasasourceofdeep...
4. The Psychologization of Infertility
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One of the most intriguing aspects of the study of infertility is its relation-ship with psychology, in particular, the various contrasting ways in whichthe causality of the relationship between psychological problems and in-fertility has been interpreted. Since biblical times, it has been noted thatinvoluntarily childless women, such as Sarah, the wife of Abraham, fre-...
PART II: GENDER AND BODY POLITICS
5. Infertile Bodies: Medicalization, Metaphor, and Agency
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Fromthevantagepointofthediscourseofmedicine,infertilityisthefailureto conceive a child after twelve months of unprotected intercourse. Fromthe vantage point of American infertile women, however, infertility is amajor disruption in one’s projected life course, a failure to live up to nor-mative notions about what it means to be an adult woman in American...
6. Deciding Whether to Tell Children about Donor Insemination: An Unresolved Question in the United States
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As many as one in eight married couples in the United States experiencedifficulty conceiving a child, leading more than one million women a yearto seek infertility treatment (SART, 1998). Although inadequacies associ-ated with sperm are causal or contributory to almost half of all infertility,there has been little if any effective treatment for male infertility until the...
7. Conceiving the Happy Family: Infertility and Marital Politics in Northern Vietnam
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Infertility in northern Vietnam is a serious issue because it threatens tohinder the development of ties that are believed to bind the conjugal unit,to link that unit to the previous generation, and to connect the living tothe dead. Childlessness in a married couple challenges the very purpose ofmarriage in northern Vietnam, where the birth of children is intended to...
8. Positioning Gender Identity in Narratives of Infertility: South Indian Women’s Lives in Context
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...motherhood, do women construct gender identities when they cannot bemothers? Making babies is how women are expected to form adult identi-ties the world over, and in non-Western “developing” societies the gen-deredconsequencesofinfertilitycanbegrave(Inhorn,1994;Unisa,1999).Psychological theories consider maternity the central milestone in adult...
9. Childlessness, Adoption, and Milagros de Dios in Costa Rica
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Costa Rica has been celebrated as an international success story in healthdevelopment (Harrison, 1981). Among its many successes, Costa Rica hasachieved one of the “earliest and fastest...fertility transitions in the de-velopingworld”(Rosero-Bixby&Casterline,1994,p.439).Decliningbirth-rates, increasing acceptance of family planning, and diminishing “ideal”...
PART III: THE INFERTILITY BELT
10. Problematizing Fertility: “Scientific” Accounts and Chadian Women’s Narratives
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LargeportionsofCentralAfricahavelongbeencharacterizedbyunusuallylow fertility. Before the turn of the twentieth century, European explorersand colonial administrators noted the “fragility,” even depopulation ofsome Central African societies, and historical demographers have sincesubstantiated these claims (Caldwell & Caldwell, 1983; Headrick, 1990;...
11. Is Infertility an Unrecognized Public Health and Population Problem? The View from the Cameroon Grassfields
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Many women in Cameroon, a sub-Saharan country located on the “hinge”between West and Central Africa, experience impediments to bearinghealthy children. Results from the 1998 Demographic and Health Survey(DHS) demonstrate that despite recent decreases, 5.5 percent of marriedwomen between the ages of thirty-five and forty-nine still suffer primary...
12. Infertility and Matrilineality: The Exceptional Case of the Macua of Mozambique
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In the scarce literature on infertility in Africa, negative consequences forthe infertile couple—in particular for the infertile woman—are generallystressed.Anthropologicalstudiesonsocialandculturalaspectsofinfertilityin Botswana (Mogobe, 1998), Egypt (Inhorn, 1994, 1996), The Gambia(Sundby, 1997), and Nigeria (Koster-Oyekan, 1998; Okonofua, Harris, &...
13. Infertility and Health Care in Countries with Less Resources: Case Studies from Sub-Saharan Africa
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To what extent will the meaning, causes, consequences, and treatment ofinfertility differ according to culture, context, and socioeconomic environ-ment? And what are the challenges if the aim is to promote a more equi-table world, including better care for those couples who are affected byinfertility? In the developed part of the world, infertility has become an...
PART IV: GLOBALIZING TECHNOLOGIES
14. The “Local” Confronts the “Global”: Infertile Bodies and New Reproductive Technologies in Egypt
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Since the birth in 1978 of Louise Brown, the world’s first test-tube baby,new reproductive technologies (NRTs) have spread around the globe,reaching countries far from the “producing” nations of the West. PerhapsnowhereisthisglobalizationprocessmoreevidentthaninthenearlytwentynationsoftheMuslimMiddleEast,whereinvitrofertilization(IVF)centers...
15. Rabbis and Reproduction: The Uses of New Reproductive Technologies among Ultraorthodox Jews in Israel
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What are the contemporary attitudes toward new reproductive technolo-gies (NRTs) among ultraorthodox Jews in Israel? Ultraorthodox Jews haveembraced the practical and theoretical challenges presented by NRTs andhave created innovative if often contradictory rulings about their appro-priate use. That they inhabit a world governed by ancient traditions and...
16. The Politics of Making Modern Babies in China: Reproductive Technologies and the “New” Eugenics
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Since the late 1980s, there has been increased interest in and use of newreproductive technologies (NRTs), resulting in a “new” eugenics in thePeople’s Republic of China. In March 1988 in Beijing, a thirty-nine-year-old woman from rural China gave birth to China’s first test-tube baby. ByDecember 1993, one of China’s major teaching hospitals had produced...
17. Conception Politics: Medical Egos, Media Spotlights, and the Contest over Test-Tube Firsts in India
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The history of in vitro fertilization (IVF) in India is arguably as old as thehistory of IVF itself. Its origin has been controversial and its subsequentdevelopmentnolessso.Invitrofertilizationlaidthefoundationforassistedconception in India and created a terrain on which wars for the legitimateownership of the first “test-tube baby miracle” are being fought.1 The story...
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Gay Becker is Professor in Residence, Social and Behavioral Sciences andMedical Anthropology, at the University of California, San Francisco. Shehas been studying infertility and reproductive technologies for more thantwenty years, a project that grew out of her own experience with infertility.Her work includes a general study of people’s experiences with infertility,...
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Page Count: 355
Publication Year: 2002