Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

Helsingin yliopisto, Helsinki 2006

Biovalta, toiseus ja naisten toimijuus hedelmöityshoidoissa

Maili Malin

Väitöskirja, huhtikuu 2006.
Helsingin yliopisto, valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta, sosiologian laitos.

Biopower, Otherness and Women's Agency in Assisted Reproduction.

This sociological study analyses how, why and with what kind of consequences assisted reproductive technologies (ART) have become the primary technology for governing infertility in Finland both on the level of individuals and society.

The phenomenon is construed as one the strategies of the Focaultian biopower since ART are political techniques of the beginning of life par excellence, as they are used to prepare the bodies of certain types of women to create certain kind of life, i.e. certain kind of children. Moreover, ART are interpreted to be gendered control techniques with which the pure, and at the same time prevailing, social order symbolised by a female body is maintained by naming and excluding otherness, unsuitable mother candidates and children. Finally, it is considered how the agency, subjectivity, of women experiencing infertility and seeking treatment appears in the prevailing context of ART.

The introduction of IVF-based reproductive technologies to Finland and the treatment practices of the early 1990s have been studied on the basis of a clinic questionnaire, medical doctor interviews and articles of the Medical Journal Duodecim from 1969 to 2000. Opinions on the method of the treatment providers were studied by conducting a theme interview with fertilisation doctors in 1993. Experiences of women who have received treatment or experienced infertility were studied by means of a survey in 1994 and by analysing the content of messages in an online discussion forum in 2000.

On the basis of the medical doctor interviews, significant criterion for choosing mother candidates turned out to be her vitality and her mental and physical health, which are considered prerequisites for a vitality of the child to be born. The hierarchies concerning children became evident. While people normally make their children on their own, this is what people experiencing infertility are trying to do as well. In the era of ART, the primary child is genetically the parents' own child, a secondary option for Finnish parents is a genetically Finnish child conceived by donated Finnish gametes or embryos and the last option is an adopted child of foreign origin.

Women's agency mainly appears in their way of using ART as a technology of the self for self-control on one's own nature, which helps them to prepare their bodies in order to become pregnant in co-operation with a fertilisation doctor. Women's creative free agency exceeding governance appeared as a distinctive use of language with which they created shared meaning for their infertility experience, their own individual and group identity and distinctive reality.

ART are very political techniques as they have a possibility to change the methods of having children and to shape life. Therefore, further sociological research on them is important and needed.

Key words: practises of assisted reproduction, women's agency, biopower, vital politics of the beginning of life, otherness

The title page of the publication

Julkaisu on tekijänoikeussäännösten alainen. Teosta voi lukea ja tulostaa henkilökohtaista käyttöä varten. Käyttö kaupallisiin tarkoituksiin on kielletty.

© Helsingin yliopisto 2006

Viimeksi päivitetty 05.04.2006

Yhteystiedot, Contact information E-thesis Helsingin yliopisto, University of Helsinki