Affirmations, contestations, and contradictions: experiences of infertility in Ireland

Allison, Jill (2009) Affirmations, contestations, and contradictions: experiences of infertility in Ireland. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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This project explores the experiences associated with infertility in Ireland in the early twenty-first century. An inability to conceive produces human dilemmas, challenges to notions of self and identity, and crises of faith in religion, science and nature. In Ireland, reproduction has been part of a complex of social, religious, and family politics that incorporates assumptions about womanhood as synonymous with motherhood and essential gender roles. This project locates the meaning of reproduction and fertility in relation to people's perceptions of a changing social climate in which the politics of reproduction is negotiated. It has been my contention throughout, that a study of the meaning of reproduction, from the point of view of people who have faced challenges in conceiving children, is a critical source of information about Irish social, cultural and political life. -- This research was conducted at a point in time when the state was grappling with the need to regulate assisted reproduction technologies (ART). In the wake of a decline in the moral authority of the Catholic Church in Ireland, this project shows how people negotiate moral and ethical uncertainties by incorporating aspects of religion, medicine, nature and science in their decisions about in vitro fertilization, gamete donation and embryo freezing. Through the lens of infertility the research portrays the very real dilemmas that emerge from inconsistencies and contradictions in attempts to define, categorically, the place of nature in reproductive decision-making. I also explore the politics of choice in relation to adoption and potential childlessness. -- This project employs infertility experiences to challenge the determinism of the reproductive body, deconstructing the meanings of gender and sex that are consolidated in rigid definitions of procreation as heterosexual. Through the use of narratives and interview- based research I show how such rigidities, essentialisms and gender identities are contested and affirmed in light of current social and political conditions. I combine a feminist poststructuralist approach with an emphasis on embodiment, focusing on the meanings associated with an identity of motherhood and the rigidity with which it is linked to biological conception and birth. -- The project aims for an ethnographic empathy that conveys the complexity in people's lives where infertility experiences simultaneously contest, contradict and reaffirm the dominant meanings of procreation from biological, medical, social and religious viewpoints.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 8686
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 434-474)
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Anthropology
Date: 2009
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Ireland
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Human reproduction--Social aspects--Ireland; Infertility--Psychological aspects--Ireland; Infertility--Social aspects--Ireland

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