Project

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Reproductive technologies, biological clock discourses and the extension of fertility time: gender, kinship and biopolitics of reproductive ageing in Switzerland

Applicant Bühler Nolwenn
Number 148681
Funding scheme Doc.Mobility
Research institution University of California Dept. of Women's Studies
Institution of higher education Institution abroad - IACH
Main discipline Ethnology
Start/End 01.10.2013 - 30.09.2014
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Keywords (7)

Egg donation; Kinship; Switzerland ; Infertility; Assisted reproductive technologies; Ageing; Gender

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Ce projet examine les relations entre techniques de procréation médicalement assistée (PMA) et infertilité liée à l'âge. Il examine d'une part comment le vieillissement reproducteur se constitue en objet de la médecine reproductive et d'autre part interroge l'impact du don et de la cryopréservation des ovules sur les conceptions de l'âge, de la parenté et du genre.
Lay summary
Contenus et objectifs du travail de recherche

Depuis la naissance du premier "bébé-éprouvette" en 1978 en Grande-Bretagne, les techniques de procréation médicalement assistée (PMA) se sont largement répandues et sont de plus en plus acceptées. Cependant certaines techniques comme le don et la cryopréservation d'ovules demeurent très controversées. Ces techniques permettent en effet d’étendre la fertilité féminine au-delà de la ménopause, suscitant ainsi de nombreux débats quant au bien de l’enfant, aux relations intergénérationnelles et aux motivations des femmes qui y recourent. En Suisse, le don d’ovules est interdit, obligeant les femmes et couples qui en auraient besoin à se rendre à l’étranger pour y accéder, accroissant ainsi l’illégitimité de cette technique.

Ce projet s’articule en deux parties. Il examine d’une part comment le vieillissement reproducteur se constitue en objet de la médecine reproductive et interroge les stratégies utilisées pour le légitimer. Il étudie d’autre part l’impact des techniques de PMA sur les conceptions du vieillissement reproducteur, de la parenté et du genre en observant spécifiquement les transformations des catégories du « normal » et du « naturel ». Il se base sur une cinquantaine d’entretiens menés auprès de couples et femmes en parcours de PMA ou ayant eu des enfants par ces moyens, ainsi qu’auprès d’expert.e.s du domaine. Des textes légaux, médicaux, scientifiques et de journaux complètent ces données.

Contexte scientifique et sociétal du projet de recherche

Ce projet contribue au champ d’études des techniques de PMA, du genre et de la parenté en prenant en compte la dimension peu explorée de l’âge et du vieillissement. Il vise également à développer ce champ de recherche en Suisse où il est encore débutant alors que les études sur la PMA sont très développées dans le monde anglo-saxon. Finalement, cette contribution vise à apporter une distance critique face à un sujet très médiatisé et controversé.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 18.09.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Publications

Publication
Procréation médicalement assistée
Bühler Nolwenn (2017), Procréation médicalement assistée, Anthropen.org, Editions des archives contemporaines, Paris.
Event Review: Postponing childbirth, extending fertility? Biotechnologies and the transformations of reproductive life
Bühler Nolwenn (2016), Event Review: Postponing childbirth, extending fertility? Biotechnologies and the transformations of reproductive life.
Imagining the Future of Motherhood: the Medically Assisted Extension of Fertility and the Production of Genealogical Continuity
Bühler Nolwenn (2015), Imagining the Future of Motherhood: the Medically Assisted Extension of Fertility and the Production of Genealogical Continuity, in Sociologus, 65(1), 79-100.
Making Kinship in Switzerland and Beyond: Imaginations and Substances
Bühler Nolwenn, König Anika (2015), Making Kinship in Switzerland and Beyond: Imaginations and Substances, in Sociologus, 65(1), 1-10.
Egg donation and IVF with donated eggs: lessons to be learned from other countries
Bühler Nolwenn (2014), Egg donation and IVF with donated eggs: lessons to be learned from other countries.
Ovules vieillissants, mères sans âge? Infertilité féminine et recours au don d’ovocytes en Suisse
Bühler Nolwenn (2014), Ovules vieillissants, mères sans âge? Infertilité féminine et recours au don d’ovocytes en Suisse, in Enfances Familles Générations, (21), 24-47.
Tracer les frontieres de la medecine reproductive entre legalite, responsabilite et legitimite: les medecins face a l’interdiction du don d’ovocytes en Suisse
Bühler Nolwenn (2014), Tracer les frontieres de la medecine reproductive entre legalite, responsabilite et legitimite: les medecins face a l’interdiction du don d’ovocytes en Suisse, in Burton-Jeangros Claudine MaffiIrene Hammer Raphael (ed.), Revue a contrario BSN Press , Lausanne, 31-56.
‘Ontological Choreography’ as an Ethnographic Tool: Understanding the Making of Normative and Non-normative Families by Reproductive Technologies in Switzerland
De Jong Willemijn Kathrin Zehnder Nolwenn Bühler Yv Nay, ‘Ontological Choreography’ as an Ethnographic Tool: Understanding the Making of Normative and Non-normative Families by Reproductive Technologies in Switzerland, in Tsantsa , 20.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Charis Thompson United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Cathy Herbrand Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Stine Willum Adrian Denmark (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Anne Lavanchy Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Heidi Kaspar United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Venetia Kantsa Greece (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Anika König Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
4S Annual Meeting Talk given at a conference A Future yet to Come: Predictability and Uncertainty in Personalized Medicine in Switzerland 30.08.2017 Boston, United States of America Bühler Nolwenn;
ESHMS 16th Biennial Congress Talk given at a conference Calibrating Reproductive Times: ARTs and the Postponement of Childbirth in the UK and Switzerland 27.06.2017 Geneva, Switzerland Bühler Nolwenn;
ECPG conference Talk given at a conference Extending Fertility: Imagining and Regulating the Future of Reproduction in Switzerland 08.06.2017 Lausanne, Switzerland Bühler Nolwenn;
Workshop with Guest Prof. Tobias Rees Individual talk Productive Uncertainties: Exploring the Circulation of Knowledge on Reproductive Ageing 31.05.2017 Zurich, Switzerland Bühler Nolwenn;
Annual meeting of the Swiss Anthropological Association Talk given at a conference Challenging the Dogma: Promissory Work in the Controversy about “Eggs for Ever" 11.11.2016 Lausanne, Switzerland Bühler Nolwenn;
4S/EASST joint conference Talk given at a conference Tracking Mitochondria as a Bio-Object: Blurring and Reconfiguring Reproductive Frontiers 31.08.2016 Barcelona, Spain Bühler Nolwenn;
4S/EASST joint conference Talk given at a conference “Personalized Medicine” and “Eggs Forever”: Promissory work in Genomic Research and Reproductive Medicine 31.08.2016 Barcelona, Spain Bühler Nolwenn;
Symposium “Postponing Childbirth, Extending Fertility?” Talk given at a conference Mitochondria, the AUGMENT technique and the reconfiguration of reproductive ageing 12.05.2016 Leicester, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Bühler Nolwenn;
Symposium “Postponing Childbirth, Extending Fertility?” Talk given at a conference ARTs and the Making of “Old Eggs" 12.05.2016 De Montfort University, Leicester, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Bühler Nolwenn;
4S Annual Meeting Talk given at a conference When Age Matters: ARTs and the Fertility Decline in Switzerland 11.11.2015 Denver, United States of America Bühler Nolwenn;
Annual meeting of the Association française d’ethnologie et d’anthropologie Talk given at a conference Les (dé)mesures de l’âge de la fertilité : ovules, biotechnologies reproductives, et temporalités en Suisse 29.07.2015 Toulouse, France Bühler Nolwenn;
American Anthropological Association annual meeting Talk given at a conference A Future Without Biological Clock? ARTs and the Possibility of Fertility Extension in Switzerland 03.12.2014 Washington DC, United States of America Bühler Nolwenn;
Annual meeting of the Swiss Ethnological Society Talk given at a conference Transience and ambivalent belongings: the digital biosociality of an infertility forum 31.10.2014 University of Basel, Switzerland Bühler Nolwenn;
International Conference on Critical Kinship Studies Talk given at a conference The frontiers of age: ARTs and the extension of fertility time 08.10.2014 University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark Bühler Nolwenn;
Interruptions: Science, Feminisms, Knowledges Talk given at a conference Interrupting the biological clock? ARTs and the possibility of fertility extension in Switzerland 19.04.2014 UC Berkeley , United States of America Bühler Nolwenn;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Talks/events/exhibitions Faire famille : la parenté à la lumière des enjeux reproductifs contemporains Western Switzerland 2017
Talks/events/exhibitions Réguler l'extension de la fertilité, un défi pour la médecine de la reproduction? Fertiforum German-speaking Switzerland Western Switzerland 2017
Media relations: radio, television Tribu RTS Western Switzerland 2017
Talks/events/exhibitions How old is too old? A journey at the frontiers of fertility. Podiumsdisukussion Ethnologisches Café German-speaking Switzerland 2016
Talks/events/exhibitions Penser l’infertilité liée à l’âge à partir des parcours de procréation médicalement assistée, PROFA Western Switzerland 2016
Talks/events/exhibitions Exploring the future of reproduction, Swissnex & UCSF International 2014

Abstract

In Switzerland, as in many other western countries, the use of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) by post-menopausal women has caused public controversy (Campbell 2011). Besides the extraordinary cases of postmenopausal pregnancies, the average age of women starting reproductive treatment has been steadily increasing - 36.4 according to the latest statistics (SSMR 2012) - and a growing number of perimenopausal women turn to egg donation abroad to have a child and build their family. In the Swiss context, the prohibition of treatment with donated human eggs makes age-related infertility a salient medical, legal and political issue, which is very appropriate to examine from an anthropological perspective. Allowing an extension of female fertility time, ARTs - especially egg donation and freezing - challenge assumed categories and meanings about kinship, gender and ageing. This project aims to examine the various redefinitions of family, reproductive ageing and gender identities entailed by the extension of fertility time through ARTs and to highlight the social processes of naturalization, socialization and normalization (Thompson 2005; de Jong 2009), which are at stake in the making of “older parents”. Drawing on the works of Sarah Franklin (1997), Charis Thompson (2005) and Carrie Friese et al. (2006; 2008), this project is intended to contribute to the development of research dedicated to the study of ARTs, kinship and gender by taking into account the under-explored dimension of age/ageing and time. It conjugates a constructivist stance, inspired by the social study of science and by gender studies, with an empirical-observational method associated with a multi-sited ethnographic approach. Data have been collected through ethnographic interviews with people undergoing ARTs and semi-directed interviews with experts involved, such as reproductive gynecologists and biologists, psychologists, “intermediaries” and a public health officer. Their analysis has been completed by scientific, legal and medical texts, as well as participation in information sessions and congresses.
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