We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Motherhood and Infertility in Ireland

Presence of Absence

by Jill Allison

Publication Year: 2013

Through the lens of infertility, this book is a cultural account of shifting meanings of conception, fertility, motherhood and family in the current climate of changing Irish social life. This book portrays how the taken for granted associations between nature, reproduction, marriage, family and morality are also shaping the production of new kinds of reproductive knowledge and the use of reproductive technologies in Ireland.

Published by: Cork University Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (5.8 MB)
p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF (62.0 KB)
pp. 2-7


pdf iconDownload PDF (27.7 KB)
pp. vii-viii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (44.4 KB)
pp. ix-x

It is a daunting task to try to adequately acknowledge all the people who provided support and inspiration for the work that has resulted in this book. I apologise if I have failed to mention people who were instrumental in the project or its vision in some way. ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (43.3 KB)
pp. xi-xii

read more

Introduction: Conceiving the Presence of Absence

pdf iconDownload PDF (88.2 KB)
pp. 1-17

The presence of absence explains the paradox, the sensation and the life experiences of infertility in Ireland. There are few experiences in life more culturally contingent than conceiving and giving birth. Deeply embedded in the meanings of family, gender, community and nation, the politics associated with conception, ...

read more

1. Famine’s Traces: Hunger for Motherhood, Family, Fertility

pdf iconDownload PDF (77.8 KB)
pp. 18-30

In her evocative poem called ‘The Famine Road’, Eavan Boland draws poignant connections between history and the presence of absence, comparing the Famine Road with infertility. Here the woman’s sense of self worth and her concept of her own body as valueless space or a project with no purpose are deeply marked with the history of loss, ...

read more

2. Motherhood Contested: Re-thinking the Woman/Mother Paradigm in Ireland

pdf iconDownload PDF (110.3 KB)
pp. 31-56

In the post-Celtic Tiger moment of the early twenty-first century, Ireland seemed caught between a lament for tradition and the embrace of social change. In fact, what everyone wanted to talk about was change imagined through the conceptual frame called tradition – a reference that marks the present more distinctly than the past. ...

read more

3. Conceiving Nonconformity: Challenging Hetero-normative Meanings of (in)Fertility

pdf iconDownload PDF (83.4 KB)
pp. 57-70

Many of the stories above have explored how women see their own journeys towards motherhood as part of a resistance to the institutional operations of power that have shaped the meaning of motherhood in a number of ways. Through these stories women speak about the agency with which they harness the meanings of reproduction, ...

read more

4. Conceiving of Grieving

pdf iconDownload PDF (98.6 KB)
pp. 71-91

Mary O’Donnell’s words above convey not only a sense of emptiness but the cyclical nature of grief that comes with the body’s betrayal each time there is a failure to conceive. The last two chapters located the meanings of conception and motherhood within particular normative contexts in Ireland, ...

read more

5. Eggs, Sperm and Conceptions of a Moral Nature

pdf iconDownload PDF (119.7 KB)
pp. 92-120

Infertility treatment has provoked a re-examination of the role of procreation in shaping the meanings of gender, sexuality, kinship and family. At the same time infertility confronts the role of nature in sexual, moral, biological and technological conception. This is not unique to the Irish social and cultural context but is part of the local moral world. ...

read more

6. Conceptions of Contention: Donor Challenge to the Dimensions of Relatedness

pdf iconDownload PDF (115.4 KB)
pp. 121-148

Conventional definitions of parenthood often employ biology in order to naturalise ethical and moral assumptions implicit in social relationships. Eggs and sperm are important symbols in the construct of nature and parenthood as they are the biological building blocks of both offspring and relationships. ...

read more

7. Embryos and the Ethics of Ambivalence

pdf iconDownload PDF (128.5 KB)
pp. 149-180

As I spoke to people about their experiences with assisted reproduction, and IVF in particular, one of the most complicated issues that arose was how to decide the fate of embryos that are created in the process. Because IVF often results in more embryos than can safely be returned to a woman’s body, there is now a possibility of ‘supernumerary’ or surplus embryos. ...

read more

8. Conclusion: Confirmation and Contestation in a Changing Ireland

pdf iconDownload PDF (73.0 KB)
pp. 181-192

‘Oh but Ireland has changed . . .’ I heard this refrain about change from virtually everyone I spoke with in the course of eighteen months of fieldwork. People were referring generally to the way the rapid economic development known as the ‘Celtic Tiger’ had facilitated new employment opportunities and an improved lifestyle for many Irish families. ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (58.0 KB)
pp. 193-198

In a story about change and continuity in Ireland’s approach to motherhood, choice and procreation, there have been many events that both serve as and hearken to touchstones marking time and history. Two such events took place as this book was going to press. ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (92.1 KB)
pp. 199-218

Notes and References

pdf iconDownload PDF (146.6 KB)
pp. 219-256


pdf iconDownload PDF (51.1 KB)
pp. 257-260

Back Cover

pdf iconDownload PDF (5.8 MB)
p. 274-274

E-ISBN-13: 9781909005877
E-ISBN-10: 1909005878
Print-ISBN-13: 9781909005860
Print-ISBN-10: 190900586X

Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1