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Reproductive Genetics, Gender and the Body: ‘Please Doctor, may I have a Normal Baby?’

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 2000

Elizabeth Ettorre
Department of Sociology, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA, UK
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This paper's purpose is to highlight key sociological issues, that come to light when ‘the body’ becomes a theoretical site in reproductive genetics. By positioning the body as a central feature in this analysis, the paper: (1) describes how a mechanistic view of the body continues to be privileged in this discourse and the effects of this view; (2) examines how reproductive limits are practised on the gendered body through a feminised regime of reproductive asceticism and the discourse on shame; and (3) explores the social effects and limitations of reproductive genetics in relation to disability as a cultural representation of impaired bodies. The central assumptions concerning reproductive genetics are that it appears within surveillance medicine as part of a disciplinary process in society's creation of a genetic moral order, that it is mobilised by experts for the management of reproductive bodies and that it constructs a limited view of the body. Thus, the way reproductive genetics operates tends to hide the fact that what may appear as ‘defective genes’ is a result of a body's interaction not only with the environment but also gendered social practices valorised by difference as well as rigid definitions of health and illness. The research is from a 1995–96 European study of experts interviewed in four countries.

Research Article
Sociology , Volume 34 , Issue 3 , August 2000 , pp. 403 - 420
© 2000 BSA Publications Ltd

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