M like Mother: A Social Grammar of Assisted Reproduction in Iranian Infertility Clinics

27 April 2010, 17:00 - 18:30

CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane, Cambridge

Shirin Garmaroudi Naef (International Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW), University of Tübingen, Germany)

Focusing on the social uses of assisted reproductive technologies in Iranian infertility clinics, this seminar will explore how the legal and cultural meanings ascribed to physiological facts and bodily substances explain the construction of kinship relations in Iranian society and the emic concept of reproduction in this context. Different methods of assisted reproduction such as gamete donations and surrogacy are offered by Iranian IVF physicians within a Shiite Islamic jurisprudential framework in order to enable infertile married couples to conceive. Based on extensive ethnographic data, this seminar will address the social implication of this juridical permissibility. How reproductive technologies are understood by men and women who experience it, and how the idea of assisted reproduction is conceptualized in their narratives. The major contribution of this seminar lies in the voices of gamete donors and recipients, gestational surrogates and intended mothers, their husbands, their doctors and medical consultants, women donating eggs and embryos and being surrogates, women giving birth to the child of their brother or sister to explore how in the sociologically defined area of reproduction the grammar of kinship is used to experience reproductive technologies? How the affinal ties established by marriage are reinforced and regenerated through productivity of siblingship? And how, without any connection to incest or incestuous adultery in emic thought, the transfer of substance between siblings or in-laws, as well as strangers or friends is considered ethically and morally neutral? The theoretical aim of this seminar is to go beyond Euro-American naturalistic and ‘biogenetic’ assumptions in order to contribute to a better understanding of reproduction as a cultural achievement in which the foundational structures of a society and its dynamics are reproduced and contested.

Shirin Garmaroudi Naef (M.A.Phil) is a German Research Foundation doctoral fellow in the Postgraduate Programme in Bioethics at the Interdepartmental Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW), University of Tübingen. Her doctoral project is concentrating on the use of assisted reproductive technologies in the Iranian society from an anthropological perspective, including legal and jurisprudential responses and social dynamics. Since 2005, she has been conducting ethnographic research about Shiite jurisprudential debates on assisted reproductive technologies, Islamic bioethics and fertility as well as infertility treatments in Iran. She earned her MA in Social Anthropology and Islamic Studies at the University of Berne, Switzerland in 2008, supervised by Prof. Édouard Conte. Her thesis was titled “Sibling Intimacy in the Age of Assisted Reproduction: An Ethnography of New Reproductive Technologies in Iran.”

Part of the Cambridge Interdisciplinary Reproduction Forum seminar series.

Open to all. No registration required.

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