Cultural Conceptions: On Reproductive Technologies and the by Valerie Hartouni

By Valerie Hartouni

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54 Echoing Aristotle and Hippocrates, Time's message is not particularly subtle: women's loss of biological function is linked to their denial of this function through the pursuit of nontraditional career paths and other activities. The natural expression or ultimate goals of female instincts are marriage, motherhood, and home; clearly unnatural and even "dangerous" are abortion, delayed childbearing, nonprocreative sex, and women's workforce participation. Resurrecting the adage "Anatomy is destiny," and giving it renewed force, Patrick Steptoe, "father" of the first in vitro conceived or test-tube baby, frames the matter this way: "It is a fact that there is a biological drive to reproduce.

For what readings and relations did these tests function as an authorizing text? What recognitions and identities did they not only confirm but also create? In both of these cases and clearly in a broader, more general sense, as the discussion of the Rodney King trial also suggests, the court functions as a space of reason. By this I mean not that it is, as it purports to be, a neutral site outside of or set apart from social interests and relations, but that it is a space within which reasonings are enacted and recognitions fixed to produce what they also keep intact, particular forms and practices of life, particular formations and relations of power.

It is this assumption—so common as to appear simply part of the "fabric of fact"—that the headline draws upon and reinforces: motherhood is something, it suggests, that simply happens and that can be sustained by mechanical means and a continuous infusion of chemicals even if Containing Women I 31 there is no subject, no agent, to sustain it. The subject that knew herself as Marie Odette Henderson, after all, is dead; she is not present, nor for that matter is she represented except as absence or trace.

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