The Race Idea in Reproductive Technologies: Beyond Epistemic Scientism and Technological Mastery
- First Online:
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.
KeywordsRace Assisted reproductive technologies Epistemic scientism Technology
- Appiah, K.A., and A. Gutmann. 1996. Color conscious: The political morality of race. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Barrett, J. 2014. No “rainbow families”: Ethnic donor stipulation at fertility centre “floors” local woman. Calgary Herald, July 25. http://www.calgaryherald.com/health/rainbow+families+Ethnic+donor+stipulation+fertility+centre+floors+local+woman/10063343/story.html. Accessed October 22, 2014.
- Beack, J. 1994. There are far worse things a parent can be than old. Chicago Tribune, January 2. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1994-01-02/news/9401020021_1_infertility-treatments-caesarean-section-baby. Accessed October 15, 2015.
- Beauchamp, T.L., and J.F. Childress. 2008. Principles of biomedical ethics, 6th ed. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Bernasconi, R. 2010. Nature, culture, and race. In Södertörn lectures. Stockholm: Södertörn University.Google Scholar
- Bever, L. 2014. White woman sues sperm bank after she mistakenly gets black donor’s sperm. The Washington Post, October 2. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/10/02/white-woman-sues-sperm-bank-after-she-mistakenly-gets-black-donors-sperm/. Accessed November 16, 2014.
- Corea, G. 1985. The mother machine: Reproductive technologies from artificial insemination to artificial wombs. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
- Fox, D. 2009. Racial classification in assisted reproduction. The Yale Law Journal 118(8): 1844–1898.Google Scholar
- Hartouni, V. 1997. Cultural conceptions: On reproductive technologies and the remaking of life. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
- Heidegger, M. 1993. The question concerning technology. In Basic writings: From Being and Time (1927) to The Task of Thinking (1964), edited by D.F. Krell, 307–341. San Francisco: Harper.Google Scholar
- Higgins, S., I. Sturino, and P. Mitton. 2014. Can fertility clinics refuse to create “rainbow families”? CBC News, August 1. http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2014/07/29/can-a-fertility-clinic-refuse-to-create-rainbow-families/. Accessed October 22, 2014.
- Hoffman, P. 1994. The science of race. Discover 15(11): 4.Google Scholar
- Ikemoto, L.C. 1995. The in/fertile, the too fertile, and the dysfertile. Hastings Law Journal 47(4): 1007–1061.Google Scholar
- McCann, C.R. 1994. Birth control politics in the United States, 1916−1945. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
- Ragoné, Helena. 2000. Of likeness and difference: How race is being transfigured in gestational surrogacy. In Ideologies and technologies of motherhood: Race, class, sexuality, nationalism, edited by H. Ragoné and F. Winddance Twine, 56–75. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Raymond, J.G. 1994. Women as wombs: Reproductive technologies and the battle over women’s freedom. New York: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
- Roberts, D.E. 1999. Killing the black body: Race, reproduction, and the meaning of liberty. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
- Roberts, D.E. 2005. Privitization and punishment the new age of reprogenetics. Emory Law Journal 54(3): 1343–1360.Google Scholar
- Roberts, D.E. 2011. Fatal invention: How science, politics, and big business re-create race in the twenty-first century. New York: New Press.Google Scholar
- Rose, N. 1996. Governing “advanced” liberal democracies. In Foucault and political reason: Liberalism, neo-liberalism, and rationalities of government, edited by A. Barry, T. Osborne, and N. Rose, 37–64. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Sandel, M.J. 2009. The case against perfection: What’s wrong with designer children, bionic athletes, and genetic engineering. In Human Enhancement, edited by N. Bostrom and J. Savulescu, 71–89. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Sarojini, N., V. Marwah, and A. Shenoi. 2011. Globalisation of birth markets: A case study of assisted reproductive technologies in India. Globalization and Health 7(27): 1–9.Google Scholar
- Stubblefield, A. 2005. Ethics along the color line. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
- Thompson, C. 2005. Making parents: The ontological choreography of reproductive technologies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Voegelin, E. 1997. Race and state. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.Google Scholar
- Williams, P.J. 1991. The alchemy of race and rights. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar