The Race Idea in Reproductive Technologies: Beyond Epistemic Scientism and Technological Mastery
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- Russell, C. Bioethical Inquiry (2015) 12: 601. doi:10.1007/s11673-015-9663-3
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This paper explores the limitations of epistemic scientism for understanding the role the concept of race plays in assisted reproductive technology (ART) practices. Two major limitations centre around the desire to use scientific knowledge to bring about social improvement. In the first case, undue focus is placed on debunking the scientific reality of racial categories and characteristics. The alternative to this approach is to focus instead on the way the race idea functions in ART practices. Doing so reveals how the race idea (1) helps to define the reproductive “problems” different groups of women are experiencing and to dictate when and how they should be “helped”; (2) helps to resolve tensions about who should be considered the real parents of children produced by reproductive technologies; and (3) is used to limit ART use where that use threatens to denaturalize the very sociopolitical landscape the race idea has created. In the second case, scientific knowledge regarding reproduction is thought to call for technological control over that reproduction. This leads to an overemphasis on personal responsibility and a depoliticization of racialized social inequalities.