Inaugural Lecture of Sarah Franklin, Sociology Professor University of Cambridge
After IVF: the reproductive turn in social thought
Professor Franklin was elected to the Cambridge University Chair of Sociology in June 2011 and took up her post on 1 October of that year. The following lecture was introduced by the Head of the School of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Professor Martin Daunton and the Vice Chancellor, Leszek Borysiewicz. It was delivered in the Arts Lecture Theatre on the New Museums Site at 5pm on Wednesday October 30th 2013. The lecture is available online as a podcast and a transcript on the ReproSoc website www.reprosoc.sociology.cam.ac.uk
Acknowledgements Special thanks to all the members of the Reproductive Sociology Research Group (ReproSoc), Research Associates Zeynep Gurtin, Liberty Barnes, Katie Dow, Janelle Lamoreaux, PhD students Katie Hammond, Melisa Trujillo, Robert Pralat, Karen Jent, our administrator Rhiannon Williams and Consultant Martin Johnson. Thank you also to Odette Rogers, Karin Haack, and all of my colleagues in Sociology, as well as to all of you who helped with this Inaugural Lecture, especially Nicola Buckley, Donna Haraway, and my partner, Sara Ahmed.
Original Lecture Poster, October 2013
Introductions Professor Martin Daunton
Head of the School of the Humanities and Social Sciences Good afternoon. Welcome to the inaugural lecture of Sarah Franklin. I would just like to say a few words on behalf of the School of the Humanities and Social Sciences of which I’m currently the Head. Now, apart from being the head of the School of the Humanities and Social Sciences I am, when I have time off from administrative duties, a historian so I cannot resist a few words of history about Sociology in Cambridge. If we were to go back to the 19th century, what was then Social Sciences was taught in the Moral Sciences Tripos – a wonderful title, I think, for any degree course in a university. And Moral Sciences brought together Philosophy, Economics and other disciplines, including such distinguished scholars as Henry Sidgwick after whom the Sidgwick site where many of our Social Science departments are located is named. It was only around the turn of the 19th and 20th century that the Moral Sciences Tripos started to dissolve into what we now know as our separate disciplines. In 1903, for example, Economics became a separate Tripos joining other separate and distinct faculties such as Law, History and other subjects. But what of Sociology? Where was it within this universe of disciplines? It didn’t exist. And as far as I know, and I’ve been asking various sociologists in the audience who say they cannot contradict this statement, as far as I know, the first person to hold the title of lecturer in Sociology did not arrive until 1961, and that was Michael Young who held the position along with a fellowship at Churchill College until 1966. Here was a man for whom the word impact might have been invented; alas, I don’t think the Sociology department can enter him in the REF. He helped write the Labour Party Manifesto of 1945 and created the Institute of Community Studies in 1953 with his pioneering studies of life in the East End. He established the Consumers’ Association in 1958, and also wrote The Rise of the Meritocracy in 1958. He left Cambridge to become the first head of the Social Science Research Council – what is now the ESRC; he played a leading role in the creation of the Open University and became a social entrepreneur. So there’s no pressure on you at all, Sarah, to continue this tradition! Michael Young didn’t stay long in Cambridge, alas, before going on to all his other activities, but Sociology had arrived somewhat to the disquiet of other more conservative members of the University of Cambridge, including some of my fellow historians at Peterhouse where I believe that Maurice Cowling was not very happy about this threat of subversion and radicalism to the established ways of the University of Cambridge.
It was only in 1968 - and perhaps that is a very significant date leading to fear in some quarters – that the Social and Political Sciences Committee was created to bring together Sociology, Politics and Social Psychology into a single unit. And it was only in 1986 that that committee became a full faculty with a Tripos. And it was only in 2004 – as late as that – that the faculty was divided into three departments, and Cambridge for the first time had a Department of Sociology with a separate and distinct identity. Now that new department, that fledgling department, not yet a decade old, since 2012 has become a separate department within a new enlarged Faculty of Human, Social, and Political Sciences with its new Tripos. Well, we might imagine that in fact we are recreating a Moral Sciences Tripos by extending the reach of Social Sciences in that way. Are we doing that? I think the answer is both yes and no. Yes, we are creating something like a Moral Sciences Tripos, a wide interdisciplinary context for the work of Sociology, and I think it is that wide interdisciplinary context which has been a feature of Sociology throughout its existence, before it became a formal subject and department. Sociology in Cambridge, I think, is one of the most interdisciplinary of subjects. It looks to Politics, Economics, Social Anthropology and History. It is a hybrid subject, and it is that very hybridity which I think led to suspicion from some of the more conservative figures back in the past in the 1960s. But the hybridity of Sociology is the secret of its success. It allows a crossing of boundaries not only within the Social Sciences, but as Sarah’s work shows, to the Sciences. And it is that crossing of boundaries within the Social Sciences, and to the Sciences, furthering which will be critical to the success not only of Sociology, but to the University of Cambridge in the future of knowledge in the 21st century as those late-19th century subject boundaries are dissolved. So, to some extent, yes, we are going back to the old interdisciplinary blurring of boundaries, but, no, we’re not going back to the old Moral Sciences Tripos because Sociology is, and will remain a separate department with its independent sense of identity. Sociology in Cambridge is flourishing as an autonomous group within a revitalised wider Faculty with its new Tripos; and, of course I would say this, within a vital school of the Humanities and Social Sciences where Sociology is central to many of our concerns on public policy, on big data, on migration and public health. A major element of that bright future for Sociology of course is our new Professor of Sociology whose impact would surely rival that of Michael Young and her other very distinguished predecessors. I’ll leave it to the Vice-Chancellor to introduce Sarah, but on behalf of the School of the Humanities and Social Sciences, I welcome her as one of our most distinguished scholars at an exciting time for Sociology and Social Sciences in Cambridge.
Sir Leszek Borysiewicz Cambridge University Vice Chancellor So, Sarah, on behalf of the University, a formal welcome. You’re joining a department which we’ve just heard is actually vibrant, is going forward and is one that is actually well set into the future. But I’m delighted that you’ve decided to make part of your future align with the future of this department. Now there’s something you wouldn’t know, but I was using your name in vain back in 2008; then I was nothing to do with Cambridge, I was Head of the Medical Research Council. And the bugbear of the Medical Research Council is that it’s a pretty unidirectional research council; lots of medics apply for grants to study X or Y and Z or W. But what we were really looking for were for individuals who were coming from different directions to put a different emphasis and a different perspective on biomedical problems. Too often you will get a biological interpretation if you happen to label yourself the Medical Research Council. And the nice thing about Sarah is that she is a living example of someone who is really breaking that mould and actually putting sociological and anthropological contexts to the forefront, and asking medics to be the collaborators on the application instead of the other way round. And so I’m afraid your name was being used right, left and centre not in vain, but in trying to promote the concept that others should be following this same trend; to be true to the disciplines from where you came and actually ensuring that you could apply them to very, very real problems of today. So you’re a multidisciplinarian by inclination and long experience. You have a Master’s degree both in Women’s Studies and in Anthropology as well as a PhD awarded by the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies; and you’ve worked in departments of Social Anthropology as well as Sociology and Bioscience, and undertaken fieldwork in IVF, cloning, preimplantation genetic diagnosis and stem cells. Actually, many biologists could couple that experience to yourself. And your research techniques have combined everything ranging from anthropology right across through the medical sciences. So, multidisciplinarity, it’s going to be a new feature of the way in which the University is going to have to go forward, but if that is a feature then we have to be cross-institutional, not just wedded to ourselves. And here I think you’re a shining example already in that you have held Visiting Professorships in teaching and research at the University of California, University of Tarragona, Hannover, the University of Sydney. And your research has been supported by all sorts of organisations - obviously the Medical Research Council, Wellcome Trust that I know about, but also the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Carnegie Foundation, the European Commission, the British Academy and the ESRC. So if I have to find myself even now insisting to a sceptical public that multidisciplinarity, the engagement of all disciplines focussing on real problems is the way forward, Sarah, I can think of no better example. And I do apologise in advance because I will have to use your name in vain in the future, but today I’d be delighted to ask you to give your address for this evening, the title of which is: After IVF: the Reproductive Turn in Social Thought; and thank you very much indeed for joining us here in Cambridge.
Professor Sarah Franklin Cambridge University Chair of Sociology Thank you Vice Chancellor, thank you Professor Daunton, and thank you friends and colleagues for the opportunity to speak to you tonight. It is a particular honour to be introduced by the Vice Chancellor, and it offers me the opportunity to thank him publicly for the generous support he has given me since my arrival in Cambridge. I was nearly on my way to another university when Jackie Scott invited me for an interview at Cambridge and before I knew it I was in the Old Schools, listening to Borys set out his vision of interdisciplinarity at Cambridge. As many of you know, the VC can be very persuasive. Especially when he is passionately committed to a goal. And the VCâ€™s goal is for Cambridge to succeed in embedding a more radical form of interdisciplinarity that will more fully integrate the social, natural and physical sciences with the arts and humanities. Tonight I want to think through the idiom of reproduction to say a few words about interdisciplinarity, and about some of the conceptual and methodological challenges that the social sciences share with other disciplines. While I was writing this lecture, in the midst of a busy term, I was inevitably conscious of how often in the course of an ordinary day we encounter the technicalities of our own conceptual frames as we wade through our crowded email boxes, and so this lecture combines some of the questions I am addressing in my own work on the recent present of human IVF technology with other examples that may seem to stray rather far from this topic. What I want to argue, though, is that interdisciplinarity depends in part on making just these links â€“ links between how we think about knowledge and how we operate on a daily basis as academics. The question of how we think about our work as academics, and how we communicate with others about the work we do, are crucial to how we define the role of the University, and the social benefits it can generate. Although sometimes mundane, scholarly work is never simple: it is immensely challenging and demanding. As Helga Nowotny, President of the ERC, points out, we must attend both to certainty and to the rising importance of uncertainty, in a context in which asking the right question is often more important than providing a definite answer. Another way
to say this is that a ‘new’ form of interdisciplinary reading and writing – one I call ‘interliteracy’ – must be premised on what we collectively don’t know, as much as what we do.
Interliteracy - the disciplined reading across disciplines Reproduction is an excellent topic through which to think about this question -- of learning from what we don’t know -- since it has been central to the history of both sociology and biology, and yet surprisingly marginalised within them. What we might even call ‘the reproductive paradox’ is evident in both these fields. Francis Hugh Adam Marshall’s Physiology of Reproduction – the first comprehensive account of reproductive biology – was not published until 1910, leading sociologist Adele Clarke to describe the ‘comparative lateness’ and perceived ‘illegitimacy’ of ‘problems of sex’ (1998) within the biological sciences.
‘The Reproductive Paradox’
Reproduction is paradoxically central to, but historically undertheorised within, both the social and the natural sciences. Similarly, and as late as 1994, the anthropologist Rayna Rapp could advocate the necessity of ‘dragging reproduction into the centre of social thought’ where it was largely ignored. There is also an irony to this paradox. As, Annette Weiner, my former supervisor at NYU, and one of the first anthropologists to theorise reproduction in cultural terms pointed out, reproduction was largely neglected because it was ‘mere biology’ (1978). That expression, ‘mere biology’, now sounds more like an oxymoron in what has been dubbed ‘the age of biological control’ (Wilmut et al 2000). And today it is a rapid set of changes to what we think of as ‘biological’ that comprises one of the most important areas of sociological research. In vitro fertilisation is a perfect example
of this process: it is at once a replication of a biological process, and a technology that changes the meaning of the adjective ‘biological’. But before I say more about IVF, I first want to say a few words about a reproductive technology of another kind, namely the university. And since I’m an ethnographer I’ll begin with an anecdote or actually a series of interconnected anecdotes -- from the everyday working life of an academic. I take the first of these from our departmental away day. This year’s away day was organised by Brendan Burchell, who is turning out to be a very excellent Head of Department, and he invited Nicola Buckley, who is the head of public engagement here at Cambridge, to come speak to us about a new impact fund the school is piloting. If you know anything about academia in the UK right now you will know that both impact and REF are actually four letter words. And you do not need to do the math to work this out: all you need to do is watch the collective wave of eye rolling that accompanies the phrase ‘ESRC Impact Enhancement Fund’. But as my very responsible colleague John Thompson reminds us, there is no escape from the impact agenda. So I wrote to Nicola after our meeting because impact is a funny beast. It is odd, after all, that a word from physics used to describe a collision between two unrelated bodies has become the sign under which we are supposed to collect more information about the relationships we create through our scholarly labours. We consequently must become more interliterate about impact. In my email to Nicola, I mentioned that the external research funding I have received is partly intended to facilitate the investigation of IVF itself as an ‘impact study’, and thus to facilitate a sociological analysis of biomedical translation. I also mentioned we were hoping to use our project website as a means of research, as well as public engagement. I gave some examples of research I had done previously on this topic, and included a link to the Final Report on a workshop I organised at the LSE on ‘The Impact of Impact’. I suggested we might meet up next month. Nicola wrote me a long email in reply, in which she both thanked me for the material I had sent and revealed herself to be a very skilled analyst of the impact agenda, which she was trying to change. What was interesting about Nicola’s email was not only that she herself turned out to be an ‘end user’ of some of my ‘outputs’, but that she was implementing a sociological model of
From: Nicola Buckley <Nicola.Buckley@admin.cam.ac.uk> To: "Sarah Franklin @ CAM" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Tue, 8 Oct 2013 16:16:45 +0100 Subject: RE: http://lse-impact.blogspot.co.uk/ Dear Sarah Great, I had spotted (and then forgotten in one of those problematic aspects to the 'flow' of knowledge) that you were a co-author on that Public Culture as Professional Science report which resonated with me when I read it at the time. Thanks for the report on the Impact of Impact workshop too. I'm interested in the point Mary Evans made, that "we are mistaken to believe that the force of an influential idea necessarily comes from the idea itself: the receipt of ideas can be as 'active' a force driving their take-up as their production" - so studying the way in which ideas are received and how that is facilitated is of interest to me, as well as trying methods to influence the receipt of ideas. I think Mike Power's point also useful: that for "something to 'have an impact' there needs to be a space for impact to occur. It is a relationship contextualised by many other factors". I would like to meet up with you and your new administrator to discuss ideas, and have put 26 November at 2pm in my diary and can email to reconfirm the previous week. Best wishes Nicola
Nicola Buckley Head of Public Engagement University of Cambridge
impact at Cambridge. She identified and quoted in her email a key insight of the LSE impact workshop, namely Mary Evans’s comment that “we are mistaken to believe that the force of an influential idea necessarily comes from the idea itself: the receipt of ideas can be as ‘active’ a force driving their take-up as their production’. She went on to quote Mike Power, noting that for ‘something to have an impact there needs to be space for that impact to occur. It is a relationship contextualised by many other factors.’ Nicola closed her email by emphasising the links between social media, social engagement and social benefit, and I am looking forward to our meeting next
month. Mary Evans is one of the most interliterate people I know, as well as being one of the UK’s leading feminist sociologists, which two facts are interconnected. Her insights about the impact of ideas are not coincidentally related to models of how gender norms are reproduced – for example in terms of how an idea’s reception, or ‘impact’, might depend upon the gender of its originator. Even language to describe the impact of ideas is often drawn from the physiology of reproduction – the most obvious example being seminal. It is also to gender theory that we are indebted for the argument that the reproduction of such norms is itself a process we might describe as technological – and indeed that gender itself is a device, or apparatus, for the moulding or shaping of social forms. Nicola was not to know that her email to me would be especially actively received because Mary Evans was the person who first taught me as a postgraduate, when I came to the UK in the autumn of 1983 to enrol in her new MA in Women’s Studies at the University of Kent. This was the first MA of its kind anywhere in Europe or the US, and the only one anywhere at that time which took feminist theory as its core intellectual focus. One of the great things about this course was how interdisciplinary it was, and another was being taught by Mary Evans. It turns out that feminist theory is one of the very best tools we have available to understand our world – not only in terms of women and men, or male and female, or sex and gender, but everything. Not just production and reproduction, or knowledge and power, or love, or inequality, or health, or food – but the entire planet. This is why my colleague Jackie Scott and I have introduced a new paper on the Sociology of Gender this autumn, which I am teaching with my colleagues Zeynep Gurtin and Liberty Barnes. Because we need to have more feminist sociology in the world if we are to really have an impact! It is impossible to understand either gender or reproduction without understanding almost everything else. As if to inspire us while designing this course last summer, I had an email in July from another of my favourite feminist thinkers, Donna Haraway. The email was subject-headed ‘incidentaloma’.
From: Donna Haraway <email@example.com> To:Prof.S.B.Franklin<firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Tue 30 Jul 2013 11:36:05 -0700 Subject: incidentaloma
Hi Sarah, Missing You! Quote from an article in today’s NYT: “The advent of highly sensitive screening technology in recent years has increased the likelihood of finding so-called incidentalomas — the name given to incidental findings detected during medical scans that most likely would never cause a problem.” The part I like is that such a ‘thing’ as an ‘incidentaloma’ has been named!!!! Daily life has a lot of use for something called incidentalomas. This term will be contagious way beyond its medical origins. Now we can talk about the incidentalome along with the microbiome and holobiome. I wonder if we can have incidentalata? Life is good! love, donna ps Everything cool these days seems to be named with the suffix “-ome”, rather than the prefix “post-”. Post- is very post; trans- is still in play, but my bets are for ongoing increase in the stock value of -ome. Is my writing just a morph of a transcriptome? Trace of a transcriptome? or trance? Oy! pps Genome doesn’t count for much anymore in the -ome kinship; it needs too many prefixes. Epiand holo- are my personal favorites.
_______________ Donna Haraway Distinguished Professor Emerita History of Consciousness Dept. University of California at Santa Cruz Santa Cruz, CA 95064 email@example.com
This is a typical Donna Haraway email, not just because it is affectionate, playful and entertaining, but because it is engaged with the question of how knowledge is organised and reproduced. Haraway is an interliteracy champion – constantly inventing new ways to think creatively about the life sciences and the forms of social change they involve. As if to prove Haraway’s point, I shortly afterwards received an invitation to examine a PhD at Oxford from my very highly esteemed colleague here at Cambridge, Simon Cohn. His student, Nadine Levin, had conducted an ethnography of metabonomics at Imperial College in London. Here is really the -ome of -omes – the complex interface between all of the metabolites within an organism, where the genome meets the transcriptome and the proteome. Fortunately I already knew something about this field through the work of my colleague Hannah Landecker at UCLA, which was also central to Nadine’s project. In her ethnographic study of metabonomics, Nadine, now Dr Levin, and herself a former bench scientist, immersed herself in a community that shared both an imaginative vision and a highly technical methodology. The vision is of real-time 4D models of the dynamic interaction between genes, metabolic pathways and the environment. The methodology is based on the application of complex algorithms and multivariate statistical analysis that can make sense of large volumes of biodata – in effect, revealing the language for which genes and other proteins are the alphabet. The goal of metabonomics, like its cousin metabolomics, is familiarly translational: cheaper, more effective, and personalised medicine. As in much bioscience today, the aim is to standardise biomarkers in order to predict, monitor and treat disease. Ironically though, and as ethnographic analysis can so clearly demonstrate, there is a structural tension at the heart of this metabolic mapping exercise, namely that the means of analysing multicausal, non-linear and dynamic metabolic action requires highly stabilised and formalised analysis of carefully manipulated datasets. As in most science, including social science, ‘the data’ changes as it moves from point of collection to point of analysis and again when it moves from the lab into print, or onto a screen. This process is epitomised by the other shift Levin
documents, which is from the wet lab to the digital grid, or what she describes as the shift from bench to screen. There is a constant sense in Levin’s ethnography, which I recognise from my own work in stem cell labs, of the extremely repetitive labour involved in making, unmaking, and remaking experimental apparatus, again and again, to get the feel of the data, to learn to see patterns, then to codify them, and to systematise this process. A collective effort is needed in order to gain scale, and to adjust the methods, as greater comparative range, and thus precision, are achieved. This process – usually referred to as characterisation or standardisation – clearly reveals the fluctuating nature of objective reality, which is at turns there, not there, there again, gone again, out of reach, back, etc., as lab workers at their laptops try to get a computational handle on their objects of study, and to avoid incidentalomas. Getting the objective data is essential, but getting it right requires a feel for the real thing. Above all what is crucial is to recognise a meaningful pattern, and then to align the computational models with the actual biological pathways that can influence disease diagnosis and care. As Levin observes, researchers are continually questioning how their statistical and biochemical data can be translated into biological pathways, and trying to distinguish between different biological processes that involve the same metabolites – rendering their own key concept of the biomarker troublesome, since almost all biochemicals are the end result of multiple biological processes occurring simultaneously within an organism. Of course, these dilemmas are not limited to biology. Following the award of the Nobel Prize earlier this month to Peter Higgs for predicting (in 1964) the existence of an entirely new and ‘surprising’ particle, the science editor of the Financial Times, Clive Cookson, travelled to CERN to meet the Large Hadron Collider scientists bashing out the secrets of the universe. The Higgs discovery is considered to have completed the Standard Model in physics, and thus to introduce what is referred to as the New Physics, to which the FT recently devoted a special supplement. Post-Higgs, the Standard Model, which has been built up over the past 50 years, offers a fully coherent, but still only partial, description of reality, because the model lacks, among other things, an explanation of why the universe is being driven apart at an accelerating rate. Like a good ethnographer, Cookson undertook most of his research on the new physics in the CERN canteen – or what he called its ‘gossip shop’. And as Kathy Romer of Sussex University, inventor
of the world’s most powerful camera mounted on a huge telescope in the Andes -- explained to Cookson on the canteen’s terrace, the next steps for physicists like her will be to ‘collect as much evidence as we can and then design the most likely story that explains the facts’. So far, post Higgs, none of the trillions of high speed particle collisions at CERN have revealed anything beyond the Standard Model, and the large collider is now closed for two years while engineers double its impact velocity. Meanwhile the search for new evidence is guided by the widely shared hypothesis that the Universe is held together by a kind of ‘super symmetry’ and an as yet undiscovered field of heavy particles which ‘passes through’ other matter, such as ourselves, imperceptibly – like gravity (which is another force the Standard Model does not fully explain). Worryingly, some of the most advanced universe modellers at CERN believe that the Universe may be approaching a ‘phase change’ somewhat akin to water just about to freeze or boil. But fortunately there is no hard evidence yet that such a change, which would destroy everything in existence, is imminent. It might seem surprising to see so much coverage of the New Physics in the FT. However, a major challenge in writing for the public about major developments in the contemporary sciences, including biology, is their increasing reliance upon complex mathematical models. Scientists themselves must become increasingly interliterate, and even invent new languages. Many basic elements of the now ‘complete’ Standard Model can be difficult to explain, including the Higgs boson itself, which was famously compared to Margaret Thatcher attending a cocktail party, and acquiring mass as people gathered round her while a spicy piece of gossip passed through the room. And physics and biology are not the only places where complex multivariate analysis and algorithmic computation are increasingly prominent. The social sciences have their own complicated relationship to ‘big data’ – as the recent award of the Nobel Prize in Economics to Eugene Fama, Lars Peter Hansen, and Robert Shiller for the empirical analysis of asset prices confirms. Significantly, the Nobel Committee described Mr Fama’s findings as having had a ‘profound impact’ not only on other economic research, but on market practice. Similarly, Yale economist Robert Shiller’ s demonstration that stock prices fluctuate more than corporate
dividends was the basis for his influential – or as we now say ‘impactful’ – book Irrational Exuberance, in which he describes economic crises as a ‘social epidemic’. As in the case of the CERN physicists, Peter Hansen’s model of the drivers of economic volatility demonstrated that they could not be explained by the Standard Economic Model of either rationally-based consumer behaviour or rational information processing by the market. Mirroring the uncertainty evident in Alan Greenspan’s U-turn on this topic, described in his recent book The Map and the Territory, it is the lack of predictability in the markets that is the new certainty structuring the post crash economy. Importantly, all of the Nobel Prize winners’ work in economics, like Nadine Levin’s ethnography of metabonomics, emphasise the highly generative capacity of measurement instruments to produce new effects. Models, the banks have now learned, are not only means of interpretation and analysis but mechanisms which can trigger phase changes. Interestingly, both Levin’s work and that of the recent Nobel prize-winning economists shows that measurement models are moody – and that moods, like particle fields, are both generative and reproductive. Simulation models – which are meant to test the predictability of phenomena – change the phenomena they are meant to measure. It turns out that producing algorithms that co-evolve with the financial markets changes the markets in ways the models can’t predict. The four figure version of this year’s Nobel Prize winning axiom is simple: 2008. But what is the sociological version of this axiom? The former holder of this Chair, John Barnes, was centrally concerned with the role of modelling in both social science and in social life. Like his American counterpart David Schneider (1965), Barnes pointed to ‘some muddles in the models’ concerning the cross-cultural analysis of kinship systems, arguing that the debate had become sterile: a ‘rutting contest’ at the expense of properly scientific empiricism. ‘Too much time, effort and energy are spent in mending the model, in protecting it from new data, and insuring its survival against attacks’, he claimed. Moving on from these reproductive analogies, Barnes introduces another, by proposing that sociological research evolves through what he calls a ‘helical’ process.
‘the ethnographer arrives in the field with a theory and an analytic toolkit which prove
to be inadequate for the ethnographic facts that crowd upon him. He modifies his theory
and develops new tools, or in the sometimes equally traumatic situation of wrestling with
his data to produce an analysis that will stand up to the scrutiny of his colleagues. He
then begins to apply the new form of analysis to other societies, and to teach his students
to do likewise. The critical step in this helical process is insightful fieldwork, imaginatively
analysed’. (1971: 264)
But like the recent Nobel Prize awardees, and Nadine Levin’s metabonomics modellers, Barnes identified a crucial ‘feedback’ problem in his own helical model, namely that the social scientist must inevitably reproduce his or her own conceptual models in order to understand those of others. Notably, his case in point was the relevance of reproductive biology to kinship systems.
‘Part of the basis for a comparison of ideas about kinship has to be our own cultural
notions about the reproductive process, some of which are derived from formal science
but which include others belonging solely to ethnoscience’. (1973: 65)
But how, Barnes wondered, does one take account of one’s own understandings of the reproductive process in the process of understanding other peoples’ models? ‘Nowadays most educated people in the West have heard of genes and chromosomes and know the embryo draws its stock of chromosomes equally from its genetic father and mother [and] almost all adults believe that conception occurs when a spermatozoon penetrates an ovum’ he claimed. But what sort of knowledge is this, he asked?
‘Surely most of us know as little about the physiology of human reproduction as Evans- Pritchard knows about meteorology. We believe these processes to occur because we believe also that at some point in the past long-forgotten scientists discovered that this is what happens’ (1973: 65-66). Barnes goes on to add another complication, namely that science is continually discovering new facts, and that some of these have thrown into question the exact mechanisms -- or Standard Model in biology -- of both chromosomal inheritance and mammalian development. ‘In the laboratory’, he notes,
‘chimeric mice with even more complex constitutions have been bred and studied
(Tarkowski 1961, see Wegmann 1970; Mullen and Whitten 1971 and references therein).
Indigenous assertions of human polypaternalism in nature have thus been vindicated
for some mammals in the laboratory. Indeed there is evidence that double fertilization
sometimes occurs naturally in humans (Benirschke 1970:40-45). Human polypaternalism
seems therefore to be compatible with available scientific evidence’ (1973:67).
Barnes’ point is not only that ‘the scientific facts of biology’ can change, or that we can learn to interpret them differently over time as new discoveries are added to our stock of knowledge. He is not only pointing to the fact that even scientific understandings of scientific facts are, to a degree, conventions that can change. Implicit in his question of ‘what sort of knowledge’ scientific accounts of the biological facts of sexual reproduction offer us is the larger question of ‘what sort of knowledge’ this is in social life? And this question – of how we analyse changes to biological understandings of reproduction and inheritance at the level of ordinary life – turns out to be a very prescient one half a century later. For we are not only now ‘after IVF’, but after the successful cultivation of human embryonic stem cells, after the cloning of Dolly the sheep, and after the online publication of Craig Venter’s genome. As Donna Haraway notes, we are even after postgenomics. As I noted earlier, we are also in what has been dubbed the ‘age of biological control’. And it is worth reminding ourselves what Ian Wilmut meant by this phrase, when he introduced it 13 years
ago, because it was not intended as the aggrandisement of scientific discovery it might appear to be. What he was referring to was the increasing inability to sidestep ethical and social issues by declaring this or that procedure ‘biologically impossible’ – because that expression, he claimed, had ‘lost all meaning’. ‘In the future’, he claimed, human ambition would be bound only by ‘the laws of physics’ (hopefully not the phase change law), the ‘rules of logic’ (although even an economist might disagree with that claim now), and ‘our descendant’s own sense of right and wrong’. But of course it was not only Dolly the sheep who brought about this shift. Many people did not believe IVF would become a clinical reality in 1971 when John Barnes was writing – and certainly no one in 1978 would have imagined that as many as five million human offspring would be born from this procedure in the space of a generation. And as I wrote in my book on Dolly the sheep, many of the questions asked about her novel origins were in many ways redundant by the time she had been born. As I also argued in that book, it is the form of the questions, as much as the answers, that matter in the context of what is happening to biology at the moment. The question, for example, of whether human beings should be cloned – which was widely taken to be the most important question raised by the birth of the world’s most famous lamb -- overlooked many other questions, not least the famous sociological question of how to understand the relationship between technology and social change. The fallacy that it is science driving society forward is one of the main reasons we need interliteracy. As Raymond Williams cautioned in his analysis of television, first published in 1975, ‘It is often said that television has altered our world. In the same way, people often speak of a new world, a new society, a new phase of history, being created – “brought about” – by this or that new technology: the steam engine, the automobile, the atomic bomb. Most of us know what is generally implied when such things are said. But this may be the central difficulty: that we have got so used to statements of this general kind, in our most ordinary discussions, that we fail to realise their specific meanings.
He goes on to claim that: Behind all such statements lie some of the most difficult and unresolved historical and philosophical questions. Yet these questions are not posed by the statements; indeed they are ordinarily masked by them. Thus we often discuss, with animation, this or that “effect” of television, or the kinds of social behaviour, the cultural and psychological conditions, which television has ‘led to’, without feeling ourselves obliged to ask whether it is reasonable to describe any technology as a cause, or, if we think of it as a cause, as what kind of cause, and in what relation to other causes. The most precise and discriminating local study of “effects” can remain superficial if we have not looked into the notions of cause and effect, as between a technology and a society, a technology and a culture, a technology and a psychology, which underlie our questions, and often determine our answers.’ You will forgive me for quoting Raymond Williams at length, but really we should all be reading more of him more often. As he notes, ‘it can of course be said that these fundamental questions are very much too difficult; and that they are indeed difficult is very soon obvious to anyone who tries to follow them through.... [Yet] until we have begun to answer them, we really do not know, in any particular case, whether, for example, we are talking about a technology or the uses of technology; about necessary institutions or particular and changeable institutions; about a content or about a form.’ Television (1974): pp 1-2
After IVF With these thoughts in mind, let us turn to the question of being ‘after IVF’. It is no coincidence that Marilyn Strathern cites Raymond Williams repeatedly throughout After Nature: English kinship in the late twentieth century, which offered, alongside the companion volume, Reproducing the Future, the first sociocultural analysis of IVF in 1992. Building on a substantial previous corpus of work in which, since the early 1970s, she had introduced new analyses of gender, reproduction, knowledge, kinship, marriage, exchange, property, personhood, law, culture, substance, transmission, modernity, progress, enterprise, complexity and the discipline of anthropology, Marilyn Strathern was ideally positioned to use IVF as a two way mirror to answer precisely the questions about sociotechnical causality described by Williams, as well as those described earlier by John Barnes. Taking up the question of ‘the content of the form’ of both knowledge and its objects, Strathern approached IVF as a reproductive model. Of course IVF was aimed at reproducing persons, Strathern argued, but its novel means of reproduction depended upon much else. Like Mary Evans, whose observations about the active reception of ideas reverse the agency of impact, Strathern reversed the agency of IVF by asking not what it produced or reproduced, but what conditions were required for IVF to have become either thinkable or actual to begin with? Characteristically, Strathern spells these out in a single paragraph (on page 119), in which she describes ‘a familiar reproductive model’ that came into being around 1860 with the introduction of two distinct apprehensions that receive their fullest elaboration in the work of Charles Darwin: that nature is systemically organised through the biological laws that govern reproduction and inheritance, and that kinship systems organise these biological facts into social constructs and institutions. This is the reproductive model that John Barnes rightly diagnosed as being all but self evident to the contemporary mind, namely that the natural facts of life are natural in the sense of belonging to the biology of the species, and that kinship and parenthood have their origin in the biological facts of sexual reproduction. Or, as Strathern herself succinctly put it in Reproducing the Future, ‘kinship systems are imagined as social arrangements not just imitating, but based on and literally deploying processes of biological reproduction’ (3).
If we read this same observation backwards, we can see how deploying the processes of biological reproduction might yield a form of parenthood that was not only imitating but producing kinship, and this is of course the precise logic of IVF. In order to ‘work’ IVF has to be biologically possible, but also to make more than a merely biological kind of sense. Just like what Strathern calls ‘kinship thinking’, IVF requires the systemic logics of biology and social organisation to be merged into a hybrid conjunction. Consequently, it makes perfect sense to describe IVF as socially organised biology. But as Strathern was the first to point out, the very legibility of such description ironically reveals how IVF complicates, and changes, the very conditions of its own possibility – as we would expect a model to do. For in the very expression ‘socially organised biology’ is revealed the reversal of a prior order: ‘socially organised biology’ posits a social origin of biological form. There are, of course, several possible directions one can take from this simple inversion, and I have spent most of my career exploring them, and indeed exploring how to explore them, most often with the help of gender and kinship theory. Feminist sociologists, among others in the audience, will recognise that the inversion IVF performs or enacts in relation to the causal ordering of biological and social facts is the same as that described by Judith Butler for the relationship of sex to gender, whereby it is possible to understand the active role of gendered expectations in the production of sex as binary. This shift has important roots in feminist scholarship here at Cambridge, and in particular the 1980 anthology Nature, Culture and Gender, edited by Carole MacCormack and Marilyn Strathern – one of the main sources Butler cites in Gender Trouble (1990). I take up the question of what technologies of gender, kinship and sex might have to do with the technology of IVF in Biological Relatives: IVF, Stem Cells and the Future of Kinship (2013), which is centrally concerned with two main themes. One of these is how to understand the condition of being ‘after IVF’, and the other is how this case study can illuminate other areas of social thought. 35 years after the birth of Louise Brown, it is important to avoid the habit of technological
automatism diagnosed by Raymond Williams, and instead to ask why IVF – a technology that still fails a majority of its users – has not only become routine and popular, but ubiquitously normalised? There are some well-documented answers to these questions within the now extensive social science literature dedicated to IVF, such as its powerful offer of assistance to people who are trapped in the debilitating limbo of unwanted childlessness, the generally favourable public response to this union of technology and family formation in the media and in popular culture, the strength of the imperative for couples to procreate, and the rapid improvement of IVF technology so that it has become increasingly reliable and effective. However, when we pause to ask what kind of reproductive model IVF has introduced, or what its consequences have been, or how we know what these are, we come up with some rather more curious answers – beginning with what kind of model IVF is, exactly. Because it turns out that IVF is quite an unusual model, or rather model system. It is neither a model ‘for’ nor a model ‘of’ in the sense defined by Evelyn Fox Keller – who contrasts the models used to aid in theoretical speculation (as in imaginative modelling) with those that simulate actual events (as in models systems, or test models). Unlike physics or economics, the biological sciences also have what are called model organisms and animal models, and it was through all of these modelling practices that the technique of in vitro fertilisation was gradually developed – first in invertebrate species and later in mammals until it was finally successfully transferred ‘into man’ here at Cambridge by Robert Edwards and Barry Bavister in 1969.The translation of IVF from a model organism into a model system, and from an experimental model into a clinical practice required a complex evolution of modelling from theory into practice and from practice into a routine clinical procedure. What is particularly unusual about IVF as a model is, of course, its proof. Proof of principle in the case of mammalian IVF required both viability and ‘completeness’ of biological offspring. In order to prove the viability of the technique by which they were conceived, IVF offspring must be alive and capable of normal reproduction, as in the case of Dolly the sheep, whose viability was only considered to have been ‘fully’ confirmed by her ability to naturally reproduce normal biological offspring. IVF is thus an interesting kind of model in being both productive and reproductive at the same time that it blurs the distinction between the model and the ‘real thing’ the model is imitating.
Similarly, the relevance to successful human IVF of its history as an instrumental model in experimental biology remains evident in the way that IVF continues to evolve as a technique over time. As with any relatively new medical practice, each IVF application contributes to an aggregate picture, and the ability to determine best practice relies almost entirely on deciphering these large scale aggregates – ideally in combination with the gold standard of evidence-based medicine, the double-blind randomised controlled trial. So having begun its life as an experimental model, the IVF technique remains a means of modelling best clinical practice – as it might be argued is the case for medical techniques in general. But IVF’s modelling career does not stop there either, for it is also a new reproductive model in the more sociological sense of being an exemplar, a style, or a demonstration. In all of these senses, IVF has both added to, and changed, our understanding of how reproduction ‘works’. In the wake of IVF, unassisted conception has come to be described as ‘spontaneous’, natural, and ‘old fashioned’ – as in ‘we had 5 cycles of IVF but ended up getting pregnant the old fashioned way’. Also in the wake of IVF, the mechanisms of human reproduction have become vastly more amenable to observation and analysis, revealing for example how robust the human conceptus is and how surprisingly capable of self-repair. At the same time it is also more evident after IVF how often embryos fail to implant and, to a certain extent, why. After IVF it turns out we have both more knowledge and more uncertainty about how human reproduction works, exactly. The ability to duplicate in vivo conception in a Petri dish has created a kind of parallel biotechnological universe in which the very earliest events of pregnancy are both just like and not at all like their old fashioned predecessor. Proof of IVF’s success continues to be the IVF offspring who are in every respect just like any other children, and reproducing just like them as well. But the very existence of IVF has changed our understandings of fertility and infertility, and in this sense IVF has acted as a catalyst, helping to engender new models of parenthood and family formation alongside its ability to deliver perfectly regular and normal children.
Furthermore, if we ask the Raymond Williams question of IVF, we see that Mary Evans’s reversal of agency to understand impact, and Marilyn Strathern’s account of being ‘after nature’ act as important correctives to the idea that IVF itself has ‘led to’ these changes -- as if they happened automatically. In order to ask the question ‘what can the case study of IVF tell us about technological translation’ we need to go further back, and to ask what made IVF desirable to begin with? As in the case of kinship systems that ‘are imagined as social arrangements not just imitating, but based on and literally deploying processes of biological reproduction’, the very obviousness of IVF that makes it appear normal and natural is deceptive precisely because it is so familiar. For a woman undergoing IVF, after all, there is nothing at all familiar about the complete metabolic chaos this technique requires. It is only in the face of the extremely high value placed on biological reproduction that IVF makes any kind of sense to any of its users or providers. IVF is not the cause of the desire to reproduce any more than Nike is the cause of shoes. But like Nike shoes, IVF is a relatively high end consumable, globally ubiquitous though it may now be. If we approach IVF like Heidegger might – more as a revealing of its own prior conditions than as the obvious answer to an obvious problem, we end up, once again, with a sociological question familiar to feminists, namely to what extent is IVF technology derivative of the same presumptions that stabililse gender and kinship as the obvious social correlates to biological reproduction? Are these the resons IVF exists? And what, sociologically, do they reveal about reproduction, technology, parenthood – and everything else? The turn to reproduction in social theory – a turn that is most evident in the form of questions about new reproductive technologies – is driven by the attempt to answer these questions, or at least to develop new approaches to them, such as Shellee Colen’s (1990) concept of ‘stratified reproduction’ and Adele Clarke’s (1998) model of ‘disciplining reproduction’, or Michelle Murphy’s (2012) more recent model of ‘distributed reproduction’ which develops Charis Thompson’s (2005) concept of ‘the biomedical mode of reproduction’. Motivated in no small part by the understanding, gained throughout the 1980s and the 1990s, of gender and kinship as technologies, the reproductive turn in social thought represents a new kind of engagement with the biological as the technical,
and the technical as the biological. The ‘old fashioned’ model of reproduction is now supplemented by a new one, in which technology assists biology to produce a new hybrid known as reproductive biomedicine, which challenges us on several fronts. What we can know for certain is that our understanding of fertility as a natural product, like our understanding of the universe, is partial. Fertility, like the stock market, is both unpredictable and prone to turbulence.What this further reveals is an unexplored dimension of sociological uncertainty even about what reproduction actually means. For while we are familiar with communicating in terms of ‘the means of reproduction’ or ‘modes of reproduction’, and while we have a concept of ‘social reproduction’ that connects in various ways with what we refer to as ‘biological reproduction’, these pieces of the puzzle are as far apart as Alan Greenspan and Robert Shiller. They are as ill defined as gravity. The biomarkers are all blurred. On the spectrum of blue to red, as Nadine Levin discovered in her labs, almost everything turns out to be purple. Cambridge is an important place right now to think about the question of what reproduction, fertility, or infertility mean – at a time when they are undergoing rapid social change. Right now, at this University, we have an exceptional range of large projects in the social sciences and humanities that can help us rethink what reproduction actually involves, why a separation between social and biological reproduction is no longer meaningful, and what new questions we might want to ask about biology, technology and society. Nick Hopwood, who is leading the Wellcome-funded Generation to Reproduction project in HPS is at the forefront of a ‘reproductive turn’ in his discipline, where kinship is also making a fascinating reappearance. This initiative is linked to the historical work that Martin Johnson and I, along with Nick, have been doing on the post-war culture of mammalian developmental biology here in the UK, or what might be described as the culture of embryo culture. It too now has large-scale Wellcome funding alongside Susan Golombok’s major project on alternative parenting and reproduction strategies – also funded by Wellcome. All of these projects have important links to the Cambridge Interdisciplinary Reproductive Forum – a unique graduate student led initiative initiated 8 years ago by Zeynep Gurtin, when she was then an undergraduate. The recent funding, within the Department of Sociology, of a Philomathia Foundation Fellowship for a study of European fertility determinants, which will be led by Jackie
‘The Missing Link’ Display
European Conference on Human Reproduction and Embryology London July 2013 photograph by Sarah Franklin 2013
Scott, further expands reproductive studies at Cambridge, where the turn to reproduction is equally interesting in the life sciences, for example in studies using time lapse photography of developing embryos to examine the earliest stages of mammalian development. The new initiative in Reproductive Sociology, ‘ReproSoc’, is designed to maximise the benefit of an unprecedented opportunity to build interliteracy across these projects. Importantly, what is being examined in the new field of reproductive studies is not only how we understand what reproduction involves, exactly, but what we think reproduction does. Here, for example, is a single snapshot from the several hundred I took at the European Conference on Human Reproduction and Embryology, held in London in July. This display features a small calibrated vial, or container. The central image – which is an advertisement for lab equipment -- is headlined ‘the missing link’. The link refers to the technology you need to complete your work in the lab. But metaphorically it suggests also the knowledge that will be needed to make new discoveries, and beyond that it suggests the completion of an evolutionary chain, and thus of a scientific model of human development. Very importantly, the vial is at once one of the very oldest forms of human technology – a container – and held by a human hand. This connection, between the human hand and the tool, is immensely magnified, above an array of the most important hand-held tool in the life science lab, the pipette. The pipette, which is essentially the shovel of biomining, connotes at once the promise of biodiscovery, and the sheer graft of bench science. Unlike a shovel, however, the pipette is held very delicately. Indeed the delicate touch needed to have a good feel for growing things in a lab is essential to the culture of embryo culture, as is care for the cells, and keeping them happy. The missing link analogy is thus not only relevant to what might be discovered, or the importance of good hand tools in the lab: it is about an intimate, empathetic link between biology and technology, between humans and their instruments, between the cells and their care. What Engels called the ‘frontier’ between tool and hand is of course a very ancient question – and one that closely links the social and biological sciences. We can’t understand anything about what
technologically assisted human reproduction means unless we have a better understanding of its fundamental relationality – and how all of the relationalities involved in the work we do shape them as much as our tools, our concepts, or our connections to eachother. The discipline of sociology has often been described as both confused and confusing – in particular here at Cambridge, where it has had a complicated history that is neatly epitomised by the accusation it is a nonsensical hybrid because it has a Latin root and a Greek suffix forced together into an unconvincing neologism grafted on to short historical root. That may or may not be better or worse than being a discipline defined by either an underperforming impact mechanism or a persistent belief in the impossibility of market failure. It might even turn out that a grafted pedigree offers an appropriately plastic genealogy for analysing the hybridity of uncertainty in the age of epigenetic mutations, metabolic interactions, economic turbulence, imperceptible particle fields, in vitro embryos, and ‘incidentalomas’. There might be some surprising impact measures in store for the 2020 assessment exercise. It might even be that some conversations in the tea room will change what impact means! Which in turn might confirm that a piece of gossip travelling through a crowded room is a new kind of physics particle. In which case it would turn out that the mysterious origins of the universe are sociomic after all. Thank You.
References Barnes, John. 1971. Three Styles in the Study of Kinship. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Barnes, J A 1973 ‘Genetrix:Genitor::Nature:Culture’ in J. Goody, ed. The Character of Kinship, Cambridge University Press, pp. 61-74. Cookson, Clive. 2013. ‘The New Physics’. Financial Times, Saturday/Sunday October 19-20, Life &Arts Section, pp. 1-2 Clarke, Adele. 1998. Disciplining Reproduction: Modernity, American Life Sciences and “The Problem of Sex.” Berkeley: University of California Press. Colen, Shellee. 1990. ‘”Housekeeping” for the Green Card: West Indian Household Workers, the State and Stratified Reproduction in New York.’ in Roger Sanjek and Shellee Colen, eds., At Work in Homes: Household Workers in World Perspective. American Ethnological Society Monograph 3. Washington DC: American Anthropological Association Franklin, Sarah. 2007a. Dolly Mixtures: The Remaking of Genealogy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Franklin, Sarah. 2013. Biological Relatives: IVF, Stem cells and the Future of Kinship. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Levin, Nadine. 2013. Enacting Molecular Complexity: Data and Health in the Metabonomics Laboratory. Doctoral dissertation, Social Anthropology, Oxford University. MacCormack, Carol, and Marilyn Strathern, eds. 1980. Nature, Culture and Gender. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Marshall, Francis Hugh Adam. 1910. The Physiology of Reproduction. London: Longmans, Green & Co. Murphy, Michelle. 2012. Seizing the Means of Reproduction: Entanglements of Feminism, Health and Technoscience. Durham, NC: Duke University Press Rapp, Rayna. 1994. ‘Commentary’ Newsletter of the Council on Anthropology and Reproduction 2, 1:1-3. Schneider, David. 1965. ‘Some Muddles in the Models: or, How the System Really Works’ in Banton, Michael, ed., The Relevance of Models for Social Anthropology. London: Tavistock, pp. 25-80. Strathern, Marilyn. 1992a. After Nature: English Kinship in the Late Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Strathern, Marilyn. 1992b. Reproducing the Future: Anthropology, Kinship and the New Reproductive Technologies. New York: Routledge. Thompson, Charis. 2005. Making Parents: the Ontological Choreography of New Reproductive Technologies, Cambridge: MIT Press. Williams, Raymond. 1990. Television. London: Routledge. Wilmut, Ian, Campbell, Keith and Tudge, Colin. 2000. The Second Creation: The Age of Biological Control by the Scientists Who Cloned Dolly. London: Headline
Biography Professor Sarah Franklin moved from the London School of Economics to take up the Chair of Sociology at Cambridge in October 2011. In 2012 she received awards from the Wellcome Trust (Senior Investigator), ESRC (Seminar Series) and British Academy (Academy Research project) to establish two new initiatives: The IVF Histories and Cultures Project (with Martin Johnson and Nick Hopwood) and the Reproductive Sociology Research Group (ReproSoc). As outlined in her most recent monograph, Biological Relatives: IVF, stem cells and the future of kinship (Duke 2013), Franklin’s research explores the ways in which contemporary ideas of the biological are undergoing transformation, often in intimate contexts such as technological quests for parenthood, through which the process of making new biological relatives engenders a new relativity of the biological. Franklin was among the first researchers to begin to analyse the forms of social change associated with the introduction of new reproductive technologies in the 1980s. Since completing her PhD research on IVF at the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in 1989, she has published extensively on the social aspects of new reproductive technologies. In addition to assisted conception technologies, Franklin has conducted fieldwork on cloning, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), and human embryonic stem cell derivation. Her research combines ethnographic methods with science studies, gender theory, and the study of kinship and has contributed to a number of emergent fields in social theory including the ‘new kinship studies’, the feminist analysis of science, the anthropology of biomedicine, and the cultural analysis of new reproductive technologies.
Reproductive Sociology - ReproSoc The Reproductive Sociology Research Group was established in October 2012 to develop and support funded research on the technological transformation of reproduction and related forms of social and cultural change. Led by Sarah Franklin, ReproSoc is designed to add a specifically sociological perspective to the wider context of reproductive studies at Cambridge. It builds on a number of projects including the Cambridge Interdisciplinary Reproduction Forum (CIRF), and the Generation to Reproduction Programme led by Nick Hopwood in HPS, and the IVF Histories and Culture Project (IVFHCP). ReproSoc has close ties to Susan Golombokâ€™s Centre for Family Research (CFR) as well as to CRASSH, Cambridgeâ€™s Centre for Research into the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities. It is based in the Department of Sociology and has funding from a range of sources including the Wellcome Trust, British Academy, ESRC, ERC and Office of the Vice Chancellor. ReproSoc currently consists of 15 members who meet regularly throughout the year to share and develop research in progress. Our five postdocs are Dr Zeynep Gurtin, Dr Liberty Barnes, Dr Katie Dow, Dr Janelle Lamoreaux and Dr Marcin Smietana. Our Research Administrator is Rhiannon Williams. Martin Johnson is a Consultant to the research group and six PhD students are linked to ReproSoc: Robert Pralat, Katie Hammond, Melisa Trujillo, Dilar Dirik, Dmitriy Myelnikov, and Karen Jent. Our research covers a broad range of topics including cross-border reproductive care, the history of IVF, male infertility treatment , infertility and toxicology in China, surrogacy, stem cell research, non-heterosexual parenting aspirations, the IVF-stem cell interface, and IVF in Turkey. By combining historical and ethnographic approaches to the intersection of reproduction, technology and society, our aim is to develop more generalizable sociological claims about, for example, changing definitions of nature and ethics, the biologization of technology, translational biomedicine, the political economy of reproduction, and theories of kinship and gender. Our work thus contributes to sociology and anthropology, science and technology studies, social and oral history, feminist and queer theory, and the social study of biomedicine, bioscience and biotechnology, as well as other fields. We run a programme of visiting speakers, public lectures, workshops, conferences and other events that are open to the public and we welcome enquiries about us and our work via our webpage, which offers many resources related to the study of reproduction, technology and society. You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook, or join our mailing list for updates and announcements. We are committed to making outreach not only part of what we do, but part of how we learn, so we look forward to hearing from you and hope you visit us soon www.reprosoc.sociology.cam.ac.uk/ firstname.lastname@example.org www.facebook.com/reprosoc.cambridge www.twitter.com/ReproSoc
IVF Histories and Cultures Project - IVFHCP This collaborative research initiative began in 2005 as an investigation into the active culture of mammalian developmental biology in the UK after World War 2. This field has yielded some of the most important biomedical innovations of the late twentieth century, including in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), embryonic stem cell derivation, cloning, cryopreservation, chimeras, imprinting, epigenetics and regenerative medicine. We have been interested in how and why such a productive research area developed. Through an initial set of broadly focussed interviews conducted by Martin Johnson and Sarah Franklin with ‘key players’ in both basic science and also policy formation (now deposited in the British Library), we have concentrated increasingly on the recent history of IVF. Our first conference was held in 2009 at Christ’s College, Cambridge. On the 40th anniversary of the first generally accepted fertilization of a human egg in vitro, ’40 Years of IVF’ brought together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to explore the wider social significance of the rapid expansion of IVF. Our first research paper, examining ‘Why the Medical Research Council Refused Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe Support for Research on Human Conception in 1971’, was published in Human Reproduction in July 2010, shortly before the award to Edwards of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in December of that year. A second conference, ‘Futures in Reproduction’, was held in December 2012 to commemorate and further Edwards’ concerns with basic science and reproductive biomedicine, as well as ethics, law and social policy. Edwards’ death in April 2013 was seen by many to mark a watershed in the history of IVF, and it is this history our project continues to explore through a number of interlinked initiatives including a British Academy-funded research project into ‘IVF Histories’ and an ESRC funded seminar series exploring ‘IVF Histories and Cultures’. These are complemented by research being conducted by Martin Johnson and Kay Elder into the early years of IVF in Oldham and Cambridge, research on the history of feminist activism and scholarship concerning new reproductive technologies by Sarah Franklin, and research on representations of IVF in the media and parliamentary debate by Katie Dow. Together with Nick Hopwood, we are continuing to explore the many intersections and implosions thrown up by IVF histories and cultures, including the expansive visual culture of IVF, and its interface with the broadcast media, as well as the interfacing of IVF technology with both agricultural and clinical applications, leading to its emergence as an iconic translational technology. Throughout our research, we have been grateful to the Wellcome Trust for many sources of support, including two Medical Humanities Research Resources grants and both a Strategic Award (Hopwood) and a Senior Investigator Award (Franklin). With these, and other, resources, we are continuing to conduct interviews, visit and catalogue archives, collect new archival materials and assist with their deposition, publish new articles, organise conferences, workshops and seminars, and build links with cognate researchers around the world. We have also benefited from the support of the British Library, the British Academy, the National Archive, the MRC, the ESRC, the RCOG, the London School of Economics, and both Christ’s and Churchill Colleges at Cambridge.
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