Viewing assisted reproductive technologies´ risks and uncertainties through the lens of ecologies of knowledge and action: promises and challenges
Department of Sociology University of Minho Braga, Portugal
I intend to understand the social images of the ART' risks and uncertainties produced by medical doctors, jurists and lay people in Portugal. My objective is to explore the mutual shaping of medicine, technology, law and gender through the concept of ecologies of knowledge and action. This concept establishes relationships between knowledge, actions and social images, in order to analyze how ART are being used not only in the service of various structures, but also in the production of a new repertoire of perceptions and meanings concerning the institutional and individual management of risks and uncertainties. I intend to raise some concerns about widely-held implicit assumptions which sustain the views around the values of a family and the mothers' and fathers' rights and duties, as well as the perceptions about who should have the right to live and what the elements are which ground the construction of identity and citizenship. The new forms of bio-genetic citizenship have been reconfigured into intimate and apolitical forms of citizenship, thus contributing for the diluting of the State's and the individualization of citizens' social responsibilities and for the emergence of a set of unpredictable risks.
The empirical research involves semi-structured interviews conducted with medical doctors, jurists and women and men who tried to conceive by ART in Portugal, and the analysis of medical documentation and legal writing about the ART' risks and uncertainties. My main theoretical assumption is that the social structure of ecologies of knowledge and action allows us to perceive the relationships between"legitimate" producers of knowledge and practices and their receivers. These relations are associated with local and uncertain forms of knowledge, competence and meanings, with different implications for women and for men.
The evaluation of risks and uncertainties created by ART are associated with issues of power, credibility of institutions and equity in terms of results and strategies of clinical intervention. I conclude that the main social images of ART' risks and uncertainties are mediated by the social power of medicine and technology, the dominant perceptions about the women's and men's bodies and social relationships and the geneticization of genealogy.