Mellon Teaching Seminar
This 8 week seminar takes as its subject the meaning of reproductive control, exploring how reproduction and reproductive processes or events are defined in different contexts, and subjecting these case studies to comparison and to interdisciplinary analysis. We will examine the relationship between reproductive control as it is defined medically and scientifically, and the wider social and ethical questions raised by new reproductive technologies, paying particular attention to public debate in the UK and elsewhere. We will also examine the role of reproductive imagery – e.g. the ability to witness ‘the facts of life’ – and its contribution to increasing public literacy concerning topics such as stem cell science, cloning, reproductive technology, and embryo research. Drawing on the exceptional scientific resources of the University of Cambridge, and the unusual concentration of scholars in the social sciences and humanities currently researching reproductive topics, the seminar is itself designed as an experiment in interdisciplinary dialogue.
Over the course of eight two-hour sessions, we will be exploring a number of key questions including the definitions of fertilization and fertility, the changing meaning of embryos, what counts as reproductive or biological control, the difference between reproduction and regeneration, and the implications of experiments with reproductive substance for understandings of heredity, development and parenthood, as well as evolution and epigenetics. We will examine public and parliamentary debate over topics such as cybrid, or admixed human, embryos, and will pay particular attention to the role of both scientists and scientific information in such debates. Participants are required to attend all of the sessions, and to prepare the ‘Essential Reading’ in advance. The course is limited to 20 places.