A Life (Un)Worthy of Living: Reproductive Genetics in Israel and Germany

1 November 2010, 17:00 - 18:30

CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane, Cambridge

Evening seminar

Dr Yael Hashiloni-Dolev (Sociology, School of Government and Society, The Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo, Israel)

Professor Marcia Inhorn (Anthropology, Yale University, USA)


This seminar presents the findings from my study about the social shaping of the field of repro-genetics within two nations: Germany and Israel. It reveals that whereas in Israel repro-genetics is strongly encouraged by the state and its laws, by the medical establishment and its professionals, as well as by public discourse and religious doctrine, the situation in contemporary Germany is antithetical. Thus, Israel and Germany present two extremes concerning the legitimate utilization of repro-genetics in post-industrial nations, with Germany being relatively restrictive and Israel being rather permissive. I suggest these findings reflect a different Politics of Life characteristic of the studied societies. The German one I describe as "zo? bio-politics" which aims to protect all life, before and after birth, and in all its forms and stages. The Israeli one, I describe as "bios bio-politics", which understands political "life" to begin later, and to demand more than biological existence itself. I conclude by arguing that studying culture-specific forms of biopolitics within contemporary technological societies has major implications for other controversial uses of science and technology.


Dr Yael Hashiloni-Dolev’s research interest lie at the interface of science, medicine and society. In particular her studies revolve around new reproductive technologies, genetics, gender, bioethics and contemporary forms of parenthood.  She has recently published a book on her research on repro-genetics in Germany and Israel, entitled “A life (un) Worthy of Living: Reproductive Genetics in Israel and Germany” (Kluwer, 2007), which compares the ways these two societies handle the delicate balance between the quality and sanctity of life, and discusses the differences between them as resulting from social, historical, religious and legal configurations and conditions.  In addition, together with colleagues Yael has studied the regulation of PGD in Germany, Israel and England, sex selection (in Israel), the moral status of the embryo (in Israel), and the Israeli regulatory approach towards the new technology of egg freezing. Yael teaches various courses and seminars on topics such as New Reproductive Technologies and their dilemmas; Social Aspects of Health, Gender and Fertility; Science, Technology and Society; The sociology of Childhood and Parenthood. Outside the academic world she has also worked as a journalist for 10 years.

Prof. Marcia C. Inhorn is the William K. Lanman Jr. Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs and Chair of the Council on Middle East Studies (CMES) in the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University. Her research interests revolve around science and technology studies (STS), gender and feminist theory (including masculinity studies), religion and bioethics, globalization and global health, cultures of biomedicine and ethnomedicine, stigma and human suffering. Over the past 20 years, Inhorn has conducted multi-sited research on the social impact of infertility and assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) in Egypt, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and Arab America. During Michaelmas term 2010, Inhorn will be the inaugural Diane Middlebrook and Carl Djerassi Visiting Professor at the Centre for Gender Studies, University of Cambridge.

Open to all.  No registration required.

Part of the Cambridge Interdisciplinary Reproduction Forum seminar series.
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