Biopolitics and Biotechnology

How are questions about the body, medicine and reproduction related to technology, science and politics? This hides many different topics. Within our interdisciplinary research group, we have several projects concerning the regulation and development of the biotechnology practice in Norway. We also have projects that are based on sex and reproduction, and how human reproduction and parenthood produces gendered and cultural categories on community and nation. Other related foki are cultural understandings of the body and its substances, the relationship between humans and animals, and various discussions related to the politicization of medicine, biotechnology and life (Life Itself) as part of the biopolical field.
We study the ways in which the Norwegian biopolicy is influenced by modern scientific knowledge as it is communicated in the media in public debate and political controversy. Is it so that new knowledge produces changes in the understanding of nature and natural? Traditionally, nature is regarded as unchangeable, as opposed to culture. Is it true that the limit of what is regarded natural and cultural is shifted or erased, and is nature regarded as more flexible and changeable than before?

Projects

Inside out. New images and imaginations of the body.
How do cultural values interact with the production and interpretation of new medical images? How do medical imaging technologies contribute to new imaginations and redefinitions of human bodies and organic processes of the body? How are medical images transformed when they leave the scientific context and reappear in popular culture?

Responsible: Prof. Merete Lie
Participants: Prof. Merete Lie, Post. doc. Manuela Perrotta, PhD student Anja Johansen.

Reproductive relations. Production of gendered meanings in the field of reproduction
The project studies the production of gendered meanings - that is, cultural conceptions of femininities and masculinities, motherhood and fatherhood, female and male bodies - within the context of reproduction and gendered relations. Reproduction is a crucial site of gendered meaning making, taking place in public policy as well as in private relations, and it is a site where gender is generally constructed in terms of difference between biological bodies. The project design will cover three important changes in reproductive relationships: the production of masculinities associated to men as fathers, the blurring of nature and culture related to assisted reproduction, and the new matrimonial law as a step to normalising parenthood among same-sex couples. These changes are combined with certain established rights: the almost uncontested right of women to control their fertility, the focus on gender equality, and men's strong position as fathers. These dimensions mark the crossroads that we will enter, theoretically and empirically, and where the particular Norwegian context provides a unique field internationally.

Responsible: Prof. Merete Lie.
Participants: Researcher Malin Ravn and Post Doctoral Researcher Kristin Spilker

The social meaning of children: Reproductive choice, gender and social class
The inability of the western world to reproduce its population is expected to have dramatic consequences for the future; the conception of a "fertility crisis" has entered the public debate of many countries. By contrast, individual women and men may regard the possibility to choose to have fewer children as a means to freedom and self-empowerment. Understanding personal rationales in relation to reproductive choice thus is a pressing issue.
Key questions addressed in the project are: How are children imagined and positioned within individual lifestyles and in society? How do young women and men reason about having children - as a privilege, a liability or a "fact of life"? How do social, economic and institutional conditions interact in facilitating versus constraining having children?

Participants: Merete Lie, Anne-Lise Ellingsæther (UiO), An-Magritt Jensen, Malin Ravn, Eirin Pedersen (UiO)