New essay! 'Which Lives Matter? Pro-Life Politics during a Pandemic,' Medical Anthropology Quarterly Critical Issues Blog Series
Sophie Bjork-James (Vanderbilt) and I co-authored the essay 'Which Lives Matter? Pro-Life Politics during a Pandemic' for the Medical Anthropology Quarterly Critical Care blog series, which focuses on the upcoming general election. Our first draft of this essay, submitted on Sept 11, reported 176,000 COVID deaths in America. Three weeks later, we had to update the number to over 200,000. All under the leadership of America's most 'pro-life' President.
As anthropologists of reproductive politics and white evangelical Christians in the United States, we are aware of the power of "saving" rhetoric among the pro-life advocates. We live in Southern and Midwest states, respectively, where COVID rates are surging, our universities deem in-person teaching a "duty," and our elected officials are extremely hostile to reproductive rights and justice. This essay examines what pro-life has come to mean during this pandemic.
For those who watched the first presidential debate tonight, the future of abortion rights, systemic racism, and ‘law and order’ rhetoric were all major topics of discussion. They also figure centrally in explaining what ‘pro-life’ means in American politics these days. Check out our take here. Thank you to the series editor Amber Benezra for inviting us to contribute!
Learn more about the Life/Death seminar here and the broad range of scholars participating in the ongoing conversation. Thanks again!
I've been co-organizing a two-day workshop with collaborators at the University of Cambridge focused on "State Righteousness: Intersecting Politics of Reproduction, Religion, and Right-Wing Nationalisms" planned for May 18-19 in Cambridge. Like many in-person gatherings around the world, we had to postpone. Travel tickets were already purchased for a dozen participants from around the world, rooms reserved, garden walks and dinner plans well underway. Sigh.
The workshop is an outgrowth of a collaboration between the Reproductive Sociology Research Group, Margaret Anstee Center for Global Studies, and Woolf Institute. I planned to spend May-June in Cambridge as a Sir Mick and Lady Barbara Davis Visiting Fellow with the Woolf Institute and help put on the workshop with my co-conspirator, Lea Taragin-Zeller. With everything on hold, we are taking a pause to orient ourselves and will consider alternative ways to convene once get our bearings. Stay tuned.
3rd International Conference of the Society for Medical Anthropology/ANTROPOS, Havana, Cuba TRIP CANCELLED
The letter below from SMA President, Charles Briggs, summarized what I missed. Sadly though wisely, SfAA cancelled its Spring 2020 meeting, which is another professional home for medical anthropologists. We are all looking forward to figuring out what kinds of conferencing options will be possible as this pandemic unfolds.
The SMA/ANTROPOS 2020 meeting in Havana, which concluded last night, was spectacular from start to finish. It is somewhat remarkable that it happened at all: If the three Italian tourists had been diagnosed in Cuba with COVID 19 before the beginning of the conference, I think that it would have been cancelled. In Cuban rhetorical style, let me start with some statistics: Given that a number of those who had sent in abstracts were unfortunately unable to come-and were certainly missed-it is notable that the event still included 159 participants from 23 countries. SMA's program consisted of 21 sessions with 85 oral presentations, 27 posters, and a film. The opening day of SMA's program featured an online presentation by Latin America's leading figure in medical anthropology, Eduardo Menéndez, followed by presentations on Menéndez's work by Cuban anthropologists, public health scholars and practitioners, and others, including a Pan American Health Organization official. The three principal themes were social determination of health from social medicine, critical epidemiology, and critical medical anthropology perspectives; sexual and reproductive rights and health; and intercultural health and indigenous movements. The activities also consisted of concerts, including by a youth orchestra, a banquet and dance, and a trip to the Anthropological Museum Montané. Past-President Arachu Castro deserves our sincere thanks for the massive commitment of time and energy to make the meeting possible and for sustaining its organization and spirit in the face of viral efforts to derail it. SMA Treasurer Jessica Mulligan helped immensely with the complex financial arrangements, and SMA members Elise Andaya and Carolyn Smith-Morris and National School of Public Health Professor Zoe Díaz Bernal assisted Arachu on the Program Committee. I was very pleased to be able to meet a number of scholars who lead Latin American medical anthropology associations and groups; they are very interested in exploring ways of collaborating with us in the future. In sum, SMA owes deep gratitude to Arachu for launching this impressive initiative in linking medical anthropologies worldwide.
"Science & Technology in the Long 20th Century" Conference, Department of History, Purdue University
This gathering was brain candy for me and a warm welcome to Purdue soon after arriving. On behalf of the History Department, Dr. Mary Mitchell and Dr. Sharra Vostral coordinated a creative intellectual experience by bringing bright minds from across campus, disciplines, and the world together to discuss science and technology. Organizers curated a dynamic conditions for conversation and cross-pollination set over a couple of days focused around a few roundtable themes: Gender, Sport, Environment, Violence, Information and Material World, and Biology. We heard keynotes by Susan Lindee and Sharra Vostral, and enjoyed meals and campus walks together. I didn't know what to expect when preparing my 5min flash presentation for the Gender & STEM roundtable, but found everyone to be engaged and engaging, curious and generative thinkers.
"Saving Embryos: Waking Up Christian Logics in Reproductive Technologies," 4S Conference, New Orleans, LA
First, I will reflect on lessons learned from scholarship in this tradition that addresses Christianity. Then, drawing upon ethnographic research from 2008-2018, I will offer a glimpse inside programs that manage embryos leftover from IVF, including a prominent “embryo adoption” program established by “pro-life” Christians (which I call Blossom) and a premier biobank for human embryonic stem cell research (which I call REDEEM Biobank). In my work, I have examined the medical, economic, and religious connotations of saving to trace the various alignments and stakes of them across these settings. Today, I use saving in a narrower sense to focus on the explicit and secularized Christian logics of salvation, resurrection, redemption subtending both programs that strive to convert IVF leftovers into renewed form. To conclude, I will trace how some of the same Christian logics are propelling the contemporary antiabortion movement, what this means for reproductive justice, and why we should care.... Louisiana is an exemplar place for seeing how Christian saving logics, expressed through embryo personhood politics, have real and wide implications.
Hot off the press! My colleague Sandra Bärnreuther and I co-authored an essay for the Reproductive. Sociology Search Group (ReproSoc) at the University of Cambridge in which we compare trends we noticed in our different research settings where sperm, eggs, and embryos are frozen and managed. Check out the full post here!
Here's a teaser:
Looking through an anthropological lens, it is safe to assume that reproductive substances in biobanks, like cryopreserved donor gametes and embryos, are constituted in distinct ways within Indian In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) hospitals as compared to US research laboratories or “adoption” programs. Our respective ethnographic research in these settings confirms that reproductive substances are “a cultural and historical product, and one which may well look different in the varied locations in which we work” (Marsland and Prince 2012, 462). More surprising perhaps are the similarities in how cryopreserved gametes and embryos are transformed, reconfigured, and manifest multiple potentialities in our respective fieldsites. We began discussing these commonalities during the 2016 conference “Biobanques: Quelles Reconfigurations Pour Le Vivant? Approches Interdisciplinaires et Comparatives” in Paris, from which we both developed articles for publication in New Genetics and Society within a special issue on “Biobanks and the Reconfigurations of the Living.” In this blog post, we share common aspects that we encountered across distinct fieldsites and discuss questions they invite about the transformation of frozen life in reproductive biobanks...(Read on here)
I'm excited to be joining the "Baby Markets Roundtable," chaired by Dr. Michelle Goodwin, Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. Previous roundtables contributed to the Baby Markets edited volume published in 2010 by Cambridge University Press. If it's not on your radar, it should be! I'll be discussing race as a marketable good within Christian embryo adoption.