anthro in the news 9/7/15



Chagos update

The Financial Times reported on continuing efforts in the U.K. and elsewhere by displaced Chagos Islanders to return home and receive compensation for their forced removal fifty years ago. The article provides comments from two cultural anthropologists: David Vine of American University and Sean Carey of Manchester University. “When you tell people about the history, they think it must be something out of the 19th century. They are shocked to hear it happened so relatively recently,” says Vine, author of the book, Island of Shame about Diego Garcia. Carey is quoted as saying: “A lot of the islanders [living in Mauritius] remain at the bottom of the heap…Mauritius is dominated by Indian politicians for whom the issue does not have the same emotional resonance. Even among the local Creole population [Mauritians of African origin], many Chagossians talk about discrimination.”


Fracture Zones in the Eurozone

The Eurasia Review carried an article about the current European refugee crisis. It refers to the refugees in the park in Belgrade as “part of a fracture zone” that is easy to trace; across Greece, Macedonia and Serbia and on through Europe. The article acknowledges cultural anthropologist Carolyn Nordstrom of Notre Dame University as the source of the term fracture zone, in her chapter in the edited book, An Anthropology of War. She wrote that “fracture lines run internationally and follow power abuses, pathological profiteering, institutionalized inequalities, and human rights violations – actions that fill the pockets and secure the dominance of some while damaging the lives of others.” Nordstrom sees the danger of fracture zones in how they institutionalize crisis and make it enduring. Continue reading “anthro in the news 9/7/15”

Assisted reproductive technologies: reviewing recent perspectives and addressing research gaps in medical anthropology

Guest post by Jessica Grebeldinger

ICSI is a common form of IVF in which sperm is injected directly into the egg. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

In 1978, Brigitte Jordan published her foundational cross-cultural ethnography Birth in Four Cultures, declaring that childbirth “is everywhere socially marked and shaped” (Jordan 1993[1978]:3). This publication signaled the birth of reproduction as a focused field of anthropological inquiry. That same year, the world’s first “test tube baby” conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF) was born, ushering in the age of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs). Over thirty years later, both biomedical reproductive technologies and anthropological attention to technological approaches to reproduction have increased substantially. Anthropologists are engaged in studying the intersections of technologies and reproduction because they are deeply connected, indeed, central, to many other aspects of human life, including gender, kinship and notions of the family, individual identity, religion, social inequality, globalization, and health care policy. Concerning ARTs, Rapp has stated that “there can be no more hallowed or classic ground on which anthropological interpretation reverentially and critically occurs” (2006:421).

Birth in Four Cultures by Brigitte Jordan

ARTs developed and spread rapidly, if not evenly, throughout the globe after the birth of the first baby conceived through IVF. An estimated 5 million babies have been born using ARTs since 1978, with an average 27% of treatment cycles resulting in the birth of a baby, the majority of these resulting from traditional IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), in which fertilization is achieved by injecting a single sperm into the egg (ESHRE 2012). Assisted reproductive technologies created new opportunities to study biomedicine’s involvement in conception, and, indeed, medical anthropologists have answered Ginsburg and Rapp’s (1995) call to situate reproduction at the center of social analysis. The importance of ARTs to this effort is evidenced by the number of edited volumes produced in the last 15 years that are devoted either completely or in part to the study of these technologies (Birenbaum-Carmeli and Inhorn 2009; Browner and Sargent 2011; Culley et al. 2009; Dumit and Davis-Floyd 1998; Davis-Floyd and Sargent 1997; Franklin and Ragoné 1998; Inhorn 2007a; Inhorn and van Balen 2002; Inhorn et al. 2009; Morgan and Michaels 1999).

The review that follows presents a survey of some of the most recent anthropological literature on reproductive technologies, focusing on those published in the last 5 years (2007 and forward). The review demonstrates the breadth of this field of research, which has produced important insights on such topics as infertility experiences, the commodification of reproductive bodies, the phenomenon of international reproductive travel, new kinship configurations, among others. However, the review reveals that this research area has also suffered from a narrowed field of focus resulting from certain gaps in the literature along racial, socioeconomic, geographic, and gender lines. These imbalances problematize our ability to document the varied uses and impacts of reproductive technologies at global and local levels. I discuss this problem after the review section and underscore some recent studies that point the way toward a more inclusive and complete field of reproduction-focused medical anthropology.

Continue reading “Assisted reproductive technologies: reviewing recent perspectives and addressing research gaps in medical anthropology”