Keynote Speakers

Dr. Katharine Dow

University of Cambridge

Katharine Dow is a Senior Research Associate and Deputy Director of the Reproductive Sociology Research Group (ReproSoc) at the University of Cambridge and a visiting scholar in anthropology at the University of Copenhagen. She trained as an anthropologist at the LSE and held an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh. Her overarching research interest is in connections between reproductive and environmental concerns and activism. Additionally, Katharine specialises in public and media discourses around reproduction and reproductive technologies; kinship and gender; multispecies ethnography; and environmental and food activism.

In/Fertile Conditions

The call for papers for this conference notes the paradox of societal and political anxieties about both low fertility and human population growth in a time of environmental crisis. In this lecture, I will reflect on this paradox through several examples from my research on the connections between reproductive and environmental concerns over the last fifteen years. With the climate and biodiversity crises, infertility and environmental degradation have become indexical of each other. Through ethnographic data and a critical reading of public discourses surrounding the (putative) connections between reproduction and the environment, I will consider how concerns about the environment and its future have come to figure in and even constitute reproduction in humans and other species.

My work is motivated by a fundamental question: what are the conditions of possibility for biological, cultural and social reproduction in a time of environmental crisis? This question is informed by, and seeks to contribute to, the environmental reproductive justice framework, which aims to move the conversation on from populationist renderings of ‘too many’ people and narrow conceptualisations of the Anthropos in the Anthropocene towards empirically-informed understandings of the lived experiences of reproduction in a world that is riven by acute inequality and facing ecological collapse. In this lecture, I will outline a theory of conditional fertility which aims to characterise the precarious and anxious nature of reproduction in a context of environmental crisis.

Professor Sarah Franklin

University of Cambridge

Sarah Franklin is a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator and the Chair of Sociology at the University of Cambridge where she directs the Reproductive Sociology Research Group (ReproSoc). Her research addresses the history and culture of UK IVF, the IVF-stem cell interface, cloning, embryo research, and changing understandings of kinship, biology, and technology. She has contributed to the fields of gender theory and science studies as well as the study of animal models and visual culture, including bioart.

See below the abstract for the co-produced keynote speech by Sarah Franklin and Marcia Inhorn.

Professor Marcia Inhorn

Yale University

Marcia C. Inhorn, PhD, MPH, is the William K. Lanman Jr. Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs in the Department of Anthropology and The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University, where she serves as Chair of the Council on Middle East Studies. A medical anthropologist specializing in gender, technology, and reproductive health issues, Inhorn has conducted research on the social impact of infertility and assisted reproductive technologies in the Middlle East (Egypt, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates) and Arab America over the past 30 years. She is the author of six books on the subject, including her latest, America’s Arab Refugees: Vulnerability and Health on the Margins (Stanford University Press, 2018). She is also the (co)editor of thirteen books, the founding editor of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (JMEWS), and co-editor of the Berghahn Book series on “Fertility, Reproduction, and Sexuality.” She has received numerous awards for her books and scholarship, including the American Anthropological Association’s Robert B. Textor and Family Prize for excellence in anticipatory anthropology, the AAA’s Eileen Basker and Diana Forsythe Prizes for outstanding anthropological research in gender, health, and biomedical technology, the JMEWS Book Award in Middle East gender studies, and the Middle East Distinguished Scholar award from the AAA’s Middle East Section. Inhorn is Past President of the Society for Medical Anthropology, and is co-PI with Prof. Sarah Franklin (University of Cambridge) on a Wellcome Trust grant entitled “Changing (In)Fertilties.” Most recently, she completed a US National Science Foundation funded study of oocyte cryopreservation (egg freezing) for fertility preservation and has written a book for NYU Press (2023) called The Mating Gap: Why American Women Are Freezing Their Eggs.

Changing (In)Fertilities: what have we discovered and why does it matter?

The Wellcome-funded Collaborative Award based in Cambridge (ReproSoc) and at Yale, which established the global research network of more than 30 partners in 16 different countries in 2018, is closing in June of 2022, after four years of intensive collaboration. In this keynote we outline, illustrate and discuss some of our key findings, as well as why they matter. Unsurprisingly, in an era that has seen both a huge increase in the use of assisted reproductive technologies, and increasing emphasis on fertility decline, we find that (in)fertilities have moved higher up the popular agenda, as well as the agendas of governments and global planners, entrepreneurs and investors, and activists as well as consumers. Using a combination of sociological, anthropological and feminist intersectional approaches to the study of Changing (in)Fertilities around the globe, our project has identified a number of significant shifts in how (in)fertilities are both perceived and understood. In turn, we can also show how these altered perceptions of (in)fertility are linked to changes in the way other issues – such as global warming, economic growth, public health and social inequality – are perceived, particularly in terms of what we are calling a new logic of reproductive ‘cause and effect’. One result of these changes is that reproduction has been increasingly ‘dragged to the centre’ of both social research and social life. Another consequence has been to make even clearer why (in)fertile futures matter to us all, and why new concepts and models are needed to understand these consequences more clearly.

Associate Professor Eben Kirksey

Deakin University

Eben Kirksey is an American anthropologist who writes about science and justice. He is best known for his pioneering work in multispecies ethnography—an approach to studying human interactions with animals, plants, fungi, and microbes. Duke University Press published his first two books—Freedom in Entangled Worlds (2012) and Emergent Ecologies (2015)—as well as one edited collection: The Multispecies Salon (2014). Recently, he introduced new approaches to chemo-ethnography in collaboration with Nicholas Shapiro. Currently he is Associate Professor (Research) at Alfred Deakin Institute in Melbourne, Australia. The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, hosted Kirksey for the 2019-2020 academic year, where he finished his latest book: The Mutant Project.

Personal website: https://eben-kirksey.space

Impure Hopes: CRISPR Enters the Fertility Clinic

The experiment in China that produced the world’s first babies with “edited” DNA comes out of an international research program aimed at producing an HIV cure. An atmosphere of secrecy surrounded this experiment at the edge of the law. Volunteers who signed up for the experiment were HIV‐positive tonzghi—gay and bisexual “comrades” already living with closely guarded secrets and conflicted desires. Impure hopes—a mix of heterosexual dreams about reproductive futurity and biotech speculation about an HIV cure—drove the research forward. Volunteers were caught between dreamworlds, harboring hopes that were not entirely their own. The story of these patients is tangled up with CRISPR, a fast and cheap tool for manipulating DNA that contains tantalizing promises of medical breakthroughs for innovators and investors. Speculation in the innovation economy produced an earlier gene‐editing experiment in the United States that brought HIV‐positive veterans of ACT UP together with biotechnology entrepreneurs. After achieving promising results, a fickle market pushed gene‐editing enterprises away from HIV cure research. Building on earlier work about impure science, this talk will make an argument against purity to consider the contours of hope in ethically compromised times. Hope demands ongoing articulation work. As powerful political and economic forces threaten to steal queer hopes or simply capitalize on them, it is important to make our own ethical, political, and discursive cuts—to selectively renew some articulations while breaking other connections.

Dr. Ana Cristina Santos

University of Coimbra

With a background in Sociology and a PhD in Gender Studies, Ana Cristina Santos is Principal Researcher at the Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra (CES-UC). At CES-UC she is Director of the PhD Programme Human Rights in Contemporary Societies and Chair of the Democracy, Justice and Human Rights Thematic Line. She published extensively and coordinated a number of research projects on LGBTQI+, gender, dissident embodiment, intimate citizenship and human rights, including a European Research Council Grant Award (2014-2019). She is currently leading two new research projects: Colourful Childhoods, funded by the European Commission, and REMEMBER, funded by FCT and focusing on experiences of LGBTQ+ older adults. In 2021, she was elected for the Executive Committee of the European Sociological Association.

Significant publications include Social Movements and Sexual Citizenship in Southern Europe (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) and Sexualities Research: Critical Interjections, Diverse Methodologies, and Practical Applications (Routledge, 2017, with A. King and I. Crowhurst).Her most recent books are The SAGE Handbook of Global Sexualities (2020) and The Tenacity of the Couple Norm (UCL, Open Access, 2020).

In reproductive misfits we trust: queering reproduction against the backdrop of the motherhood regime

This paper is about experiences that do not fit normative expectations nor practices of cis-heteronormative reproduction and parenting.

The first part of the paper focuses on norms around reproduction and parenting, especially those that are based on dominant sociocultural expectations. Informed by discussions on repronormativity, it will be suggested that these dominant sociocultural expectations constitute a regime – the motherhood regime (Santos, 2018, 2021) – that re/fabricates a narrow model of reproduction and parenting embedded in politics and everyday life.

In the second part of the paper, the focus will be on biographic narrative interviews conducted with lesbian and bisexual mothers in Lisbon, with a particular focus on participants’ encounters with dominant ideologies of motherhood and cultural expectations around parenting.

Before concluding, the emphasis will be placed on a particular kind of dissident intimate citizens – the reproductive misfits. It is suggested that in contexts where reproduction and parenting have been historically constrained by strict rules around gender and sexuality, ‘failing’ to be a particular kind of (cis-heteronormative) reproductive citizen may offer a fruitful way of queering reproductive futures.

Professor Charis Thompson

University of California Berkeley

Charis Thompson is Chancellor’s Professor and Associate Dean for Campus Partnerships, Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society, and a former founding director of the Science, Technology, and Society Center at UC Berkeley. She read philosophy, psychology, and physiology at Oxford University, and got her Ph.D. from the Science Studies program at UC San Diego.  She is the author of Making Parents: The Ontological Choreography of Reproductive Technologies, which won the 2007 Rachel Carson Award from the Society for the Social Study of Science; of Good Science: The Ethical Choreography of Stem Cell Research; and of numerous articles on environment, science, technology, and society. She is a recipient of the Social Science Division Distinguished Teaching Award at UC Berkeley and of an Honorary Doctorate for Services to Science and Society from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. In academic year 2020-21, she was Visiting Professor at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, co-convening the seminar on Science and the State. She has served on the World Economic Forum Global Future Council on Technology, Values, and Policy, and the Nuffield Working Group on Human Genome Modification.

Automating Assisted Reproduction: What difference does AI/ML make to ARTS?

As artificial intelligence and machine learning become ever more ubiquitous, what difference do they make to reproducing via assisted reproductive technologies? I look at classic debates in the literature to assess the difference that AI/ML may make or is already making to: marketing and success rates; ethnoracial matching; stigma and sociality; care/kinship/exploitation/anonymity in third/fourth/fifth party reproduction; cross-border care/tourism; and inequality of access, affordability, and standard of care. I argue that AI/ML is to be welcomed but that the dangers are no different in their general form here than elsewhere: it cannot be assumed that the use of AI/ML will self-regulate, and attention needs to be paid to prevent algorithmic black boxes forming behind pay and expertise walls.

Professor Chia-Ling Wu

National Taiwan University

CHIA-LING WU 吳嘉苓 (clwu@ntu.edu.tw) is Professor of Sociology at the National Taiwan University. Her recent publication includes the global-local politics of multiple embryo transfer, public financing on IVF in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, and social exclusion of gender minority in assisted reproductive technology regulation. She just finished the book manuscript titled Making Multiple Babies: Anticipatory Regimes of Assisted Reproduction. She co-founds Birth Reform Alliance in Taiwan, an NGO aiming to establish a better reproductive care in Taiwan.

Making Multiple Babies: The Global Anticipatory Governance of Assisted Reproduction

Human beings are producing more twins, triplets, and quadruplets than ever before, due to the expansion of medically assisted conception. In this presentation, I trace the global governance of ARTs to tackle multiple pregnancy, involving both sides of anticipation – success and failure, hope and risk. I first delineate ‘multiple embryo transfer’ in the history of IVF anticipation since the 1970s. I examine how the main framing actors (vanguard scientists, media, IVF clinics, infertile couples, public health experts, feminists, neonatologists, reflexive medical societies and governments) have emphasized the different dimensions of anticipation – successful event, success rate, risk of multiple pregnancy, and reducing risk without compromising success rates. Then, I analyze the intensive anticipatory practices of elective single embryo transfer (eSET) as the only effective solution for some actors to reduce multiple pregnancy/birth in IVF since the 2000s. Lastly, I present the global diversity in regulating the number of embryos to transfer during IVF, highlighting the early promotion of eSET in Japan and the making of a lenient guideline (allowing as many as four embryos) in Taiwan. I argue that such contrasting models of anticipatory governance of ARTs spring from (1) the power dynamics among science, the state, and society; (2) the national sociotechnical imaginaries of assisted conception, ranging from viewing IVF as a nationalist pride to seeing it as a troublesome invention; and (3) global-local dynamics such as the selective use of global monitoring and recommendations, and also of evidence-based medicine.

Keynote panel: Reproduction and race in the Nordic countries

The panel addresses the interconnections of race, nation, and reproduction in the context of Nordic countries and welfare systems. There is a strong historical idea of Nordic (white) homogeneity and egalitarianism that has resulted in denial of the unequal practices that exist. We in the Nordics falsely congratulate ourselves that race is no longer a problem. It may be that racism no longer exists so much as explicit racial reference or eugenic agenda in law or policy. However, race and racism are very much alive, sometimes perhaps in less discernible ways, e.g. in branding and upgrade embedded in the architectures of reproductive technologies and technological practice. Race maintains an (absent) presence, and Nordic racist and colonial pasts haunt our welfarist presents.

Dr. Mwenza Blell

Newcastle University

Mwenza Blell is a Newcastle University Academic Track Fellow and a Grant Researcher at Tampere University. She is a biosocial medical anthropologist who has worked on a range of projects using qualitative and quantitative methods to investigate health and reproductive issues in the UK, the Nordic region, Latin America, South Asia, and East Africa. Since 2018 she has worked with Dr Riikka Homanen and Dr Tiia Sudenkaarne on a collaborative Kone Foundation Project entitled Teknologia, etiikka ja lisääntyminen: kiistanalaisuus normalisaation aikakaudella (Technology, Ethics and Reproduction: Controversy in the Era of Normalisation).

Dr. Riikka Homanen

Tampere University

Dr Homanen is currently working as Academy Research Fellow in Gender Studies at Tampere University. Her research explores biotechnologies, bioscience, bioindustry, care, reproduction and social relations. More recently, she has inquired into the marketization of reproduction and reproductive outsourcing. The fertility markets have grown transnational and involve a multimillion euro donor reproductive tissue and pharmaceutical industry and multilevel chains of reproductive outsourcing. Homanen is interested especially in the ethical and political work involved in maintaining, altering, advancing and participating in such a market. This is the topic of Homanen’s Academy Fellow project The Everyday Ethics of Reproductive Outsourcing: Making Good Life in the Era of Biocapitalism (2019-2024). She is the Principal Investigator for the Kone Foundation funded project Technology, Ethics and Reproduction: Controversy in the Era of Normalisation (2019-2023). This interdisciplinary and international project takes as its focus the ethics of reproductive technologies. She is also the co-founder and leader of the Finnish Reproductive Studies Network (FiResNet) together with Associate Professor Mianna Meskus. The network was awarded a Finnish Cultural Foundation Argumenta funding for Reproductive futures project (2019-2022) that aims to increase research on and diversify public discussion about the paradoxes of reproductive futures.

Professor Guro Korsnes Kristensen

Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Guro Korsnes Kristensen is Professor in Gender, Equality and Diversity Studies at the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). She holds an MA in social anthropology and a PhD in gender studies. Kristensen’s research is broadly focused on reproduction, biopolitics, gender equality, immigration and integration. For many years she has followed Norwegian public discourse on fertility, gender, and race. Her current research focuses on the ways in which the climate crisis is increasingly becoming intertwined with public discussions concerning reproduction.

Associate Professor Michael Nebeling Petersen

University of Copenhagen

Michael Nebeling Petersen, PhD, associate professor in Gender Studies at the Center for Gender, Sexuality and Difference at Department for Scandinavian Studies and Linguistics at the University of Copenhagen.

He has worked intensively on homosexual culture and contemporary history, queer kinship, reproductive technologies, and transnational surrogacy – all with a firm interest on the formations of and intersections between sexuality, gender, whiteness, and national belonging. His work also includes studies on masculinity, biomedicalization and new cultures of intimacy on digital and social media. Currently, he is PI for the collaborative project The Cultural History of AIDS in Denmark, that examines how AIDS emerged, became signified and became embedded in Danish culture during the period 1981–2021.

Michael Nebeling Petersen is editor-in-chief of the Danish academic journal for Gender Studies Kvinder, Køn og Forskning. He serves as member of Boards at KVINFO, LGBT Asylum Denmark and The National Association of Gender Research in Denmark. He also serves as member of the editorial board of Lambda Nordica and he co-heads the interdisciplinary network for gender research in the Humanities at University of Copenhagen.