This panel explores the practices and politics of 'innovation' at the intersection of reproduction and genetics through the lens of a feminist STS perspective. It asks how scientific breakthroughs in both fields (re)produce and/or subvert hierarchies of difference and associated inequalities.
Since the double helix was 'discovered' and the first IVF baby born, techno-scientific breakthroughs, such as genome editing, 'three-parent' IVF, non-invasive prenatal testing and epigenetics, have marked the fields of both reproductive medicine and genetics. While developing separately, these two fields frequently intersect and their encounters have significant implications in terms of gender identity, embodiment, reproductive and life choices. Genetics might be used to disentangle relationships in third-party conception, to naturalize gendered behaviours, to identify chromosomal abnormalities, or to select specific embryos considered worthy of a future. Reproduction in turn becomes crucial when epigenetic changes might be transmitted over generations, or when fertility or inheritance are affected by genetic disorders. As innovations and their narratives of open-ended progress characterize the development of both fields, this panel will explore the practices and politics of 'innovation' at the intersection of reproduction and genetics through the lens of a feminist STS perspective. In particular, we would like to question how these innovations and related scientific knowledge contribute to (re)produce and/or subvert hierarchies of difference and associated inequalities. How do categories such as gender, race, ethnicity, class, kinship and species matter when genetic and reproductive innovations are made in and out of the lab? How do they frame promissory discourses at the intersection of these two fields and with what effects? How to critically account for the materiality of these new possibilities? What are the political implications of uncertainties in both fields and how do researchers, policy-makers, patients, and clinicians manage such uncertainty?