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Reversing infertility: The political economy of family building through uterine transplantation

Thu, August 30, 9:00 to 10:30am, ICC, E3.2


Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are known to have expanded the definition of family and taken kindship from the domain of the personal to that of the global, involving actors and technologies dispersed across a transnational ‘reproscape’. Uterine transplantation or womb donation is a recent iteration of ART which, unlike any other third party reproductive procedures, aims to provide a cure to complete uterine factor infertility. However, this procedure goes a step further: in permanently severing a healthy though dormant organ (i.e. the uterus) from a woman’s body, it carries with it (despite its revolutionary potential) unknown and therefore considerable risks for both donor and recipient. Various rounds of uterine transplants trials are currently ongoing in countries such as the USA, China, the UK, India and others, however, it remains unclear how this technique will be adopted in practice within particular localities; how markets around this novel technology will emerge; accommodate the social relations and emerging intimacies that it generates; or transform existing conceptions of family constitution and kinship. This paper offers a discourse analysis of the scientific communications and social commentaries that attended the success of the first uterine transplant trails to examine how conceptions of the risks and hopes that it evokes are explicated. The paper explores how its promise to reverse infertility and reinstate one’s biological potential to reproduce and build family informs the political economy and marketisation of such a ‘technology of hope’.