Social birth of the unborn: ultrasound visualization, consumption and medicalization
Faculty of Social Sciences Goethe University Frankfurt Frankfurt, Germany
Social and biological birth have become uncoupled in late modern western worlds (Morgan 1996). This means that as a result of reproductive visualization technologies the attribution of personhood, the "social birth", can now precede the biological birth. The result is a new category of persons: fetal persons that need legal protection or medical attention. It has even been argued that through the usage of reproductive visualization technologies, the fetus has become a public issue, while pregnant women have at the same time experienced disembodiment (Duden 2007). In my paper I will analyze how middle-class pregnant women in Germany experience the visualization of the unborn through obstretical ultrasound scans. By drawing on my ongoing research project on women's experiences with ultrasound scans, I argue that foetal sonograms are both material and visual objects. I will expand on this in my presentation by discussing how fetal sonograms can be seen as material objects and visual artefacts that have different meanings in different contexts and by discussing which relations are enacted and mediated through the fetal sonograms and in which way these relations concerning the unborn become commodified and medicalized.