reproductive biology

When people ask me what I do, I say I study science or medicine, sometimes I say anthropology but in the end I really am somewhere on the track of my training to be a physician and reproductive biologists. Nevertheless, I’m still so weary of this field and I get a reminder of that each time I go to conference/workshops. I just got back from a 6-week course at the Marine Biological Labs, entitled Frontiers in Reproduction, in which despite the hours of stimulating lectures and discussions I spent a fair amount of time with micro-manipulators and a fancy scope injecting sperm into oocytes by ICSI (intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection), attempting SCNT (somatic cell nuclear transfer), practiced with dyes and mercury and even was aghast how simple IVF (in-vitro fertilization) was. I guess I did learn that the lucrative field of infertility is NOT for me and that I have affirmed that reproduction is not a right as sometimes has been portrayed — when the maternal uterus does not get pregnant it is the body saying ‘i am not the perfect milieu for an implanting blastocyst’. We need to listen to our body’s physiology a little more instead of attempting super-ovulation and multiple rounds of IVF.

The advent of reproductive technologies goes hand in hand with the rising interest that genetics and promise the Human Genome Project has given. Genetics has been equated with our blueprint, the recipe to be human, and the promise of human control over human action – (wo)man steers destiny. The assurance that we put in genetics is hope ill invested. Physics, a discipline based on an ideal space and set of mathematical laws is a discipline with systems and structures that can be deduced, predicted, and articulated. Biology, and hence genetics, does not provide this reassurance because biology refutes the idea of static nature and is based on a series of ongoing feedbacks, regulations and control mechanisms. Biology is dynamic even in its attempt to maintain equilibrium and homoeostasis, as it relies on continuous positive and negative regulation. We must not believe that genetics allows us to control our fate. Knowing a gene sequence is not equivalent to knowing the aspects of human nature. Did we ever believe that naming the stars that make up Orion would make us able to control the mystical space entities? No, but at least it gave us a way to discuss them, own them, and bring them under theoretical human control.

We can have a child. We can also choose not to have a child. We can have a child this year, in five years, never. If and when we decide to have a child, however, we do not want just any child, we want a healthy child and in the case of any deformity/delay/retardation the obstetrician/anesthesiologists/et al will be happy they had malpractice insurance. Clearly, the ideology of procreative choice has become overbearing and significant in our society. A favorite anthropologists of mine, Ruth Hubbard, argues this as a basis for making some of the class-based medicine distinctions, as reproductive technology is available exclusively to the upper-middle class and upper-class —


hmmmm. reproductive health practices among iranians in the developed world: it seems that first-generational iranians, like most dual-generational persons, are at a bit of a quandary between their cultural manifestos of family/culture and the rampant layers of virtue that exist in their daily existence in the arena that they bath in: school/work/social-life. there has to be something to this discredited sexualized society. i’ve been toiling with the idea of designing an epidemiological approach to look at the youth, more so (perhaps selfishly) women and how their reproductive practices are distinct/similar to iranians in iran and ‘americans’. ok, so here i am declaring that this is yet another addition to my ‘to do’ list . . . i’m on it.

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