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The technoscientization of IVF? Contemporary trends and counter-trends

Thu, August 30, 2:00 to 3:30pm, ICC, E3.2


With so-called ‘three parent embryos’, personalised drug regimens, genome editing and the use of ‘next generation sequencing’, global IVF (in vitro fertilization) is becoming more and more high-tech. In many ways it is a prime example of the ‘biomedicalization’ trends Adele Clarke and her colleagues have identified, whereby medicine is ever more imbricated in the new techno-political economy. However, as they suggest, there are also a number of counter-trends. Indeed some aspects of IVF are becoming more low-tech and removed from corporate medicine. This paper draws on data collected in interviews with IVF practitioners, in the media and in scientific reports, as well as on the existing literature on IVF, to explore these trends and counter-trends. It finds that different aspects of IVF illustrate and contradict different processes of biomedicalization, and highlights some of the complex and multi-dimensional ways technology and society interact, both within and across nations. It considers not only places such as the US and Europe, but also the Pacific and Asia. The paper offers an empirical contribution to STS by highlighting some of the ways in which IVF is done today, and a theoretical one by reflecting on the usefulness of the concept of ‘biomedicalization’ in bringing to prominence some of the contradictions of IVF practices.