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The Medicalization of Nature in the Artificial Body: Surrogate Motherhood in Israel. MAQ 17(1): 78-98

The Medicalization of Nature in the Artificial Body: Surrogate Motherhood in Israel. MAQ 17(1): 78-98



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Published by mslula
Dr. Elly Teman's new ethnography of Surrogate Motherhood is now available.
'Birthing a Mother: The Surrogate Body and the Pregnant Self'
by Elly Teman
University of California Press, February 2010

Sample chapter available on book website:
For a 20% discount enter code: 10M9071
The book can also be purchased on Amazon:
Dr. Elly Teman's new ethnography of Surrogate Motherhood is now available.
'Birthing a Mother: The Surrogate Body and the Pregnant Self'
by Elly Teman
University of California Press, February 2010

Sample chapter available on book website:
For a 20% discount enter code: 10M9071
The book can also be purchased on Amazon:

More info:

Categories:Types, Research
Published by: mslula on Jul 09, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Department of Sociology and AnthropologyThe Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The Medicalization of "Nature" in the"Artificial Body": Surrogate Motherhoodin Israel
In this article, I draw on anthropological and feminist scholarship on thebody and the nature/culture divide as a framework for understanding theplace of surrogate mothers in a conceptual ideology that connects mother-hood with nature. I explore links between the medicalization of childbirth
Israel and the personal agency of surrogate mothers as relayed throughinterviews. Taking the patriarchal context of
Israeli surrogacy law of1996 into consideration, I underscore surrogates' imaginative use ofmedical metaphors as tools for the subversion of surrogacy's threateningsocial connotations. By redefining the surrogate body as "artificial" andlocating "nature" in the commissioning mother's body, surrogates adoptmedical rhetoric to transform surrogacy from a transgressive act into analternative route toward achieving normative Israeli national reproductivegoals,
[surrogate motherhood, medicalization, nature, body, agency, Israel]
he theorization of the body in sociology and anthropology has become in-creasingly popular over the last two decades. Although the body has histori-cally been located on the "nature" side of the nature/culture divide (Bordo1993), it has become clear to students of culture and society that there is no "natu-ral" perception of the body that is free from the social dimension (Douglas 1970).The body is no longer regarded as "instinctual" or "natural" (Foucault 1972) but,rather, as already and always inscribed by culture and anchored in a particular his-torical moment (Scheper-Hughes and Lock 1987). As
result, contemporary schol-ars are forced to consider the body as constructed in unison with the discourses andartifacts of science and technology (Haraway 1991).In the literature on motherhood, however, the assumption remains thatwomen's bodies are deeply rooted in nature, their reproductive biology serving asa harness to their freedom. From Simone de Beauvoir's (1957) first protest that thefemale body "trapped within the web of nature" was the root cause of men's control ofwomen's lives to Ortner's (1974) distinction between women as nature and men asculture, feminist scholars have theorized women's natural and cultural conditioning
Medical Anthropology
17(1 ):78-98. Copyright ©2003,American Anthropological Association.78
into the maternal role. Echoing the view that women are enslaved to men becauseof their "natural" reproductive bodies, Shulamith Firestone (1970) proposed the"artificial womb" as a possible way to free women from the bonds of their bodies.A second group of feminist theorists took a different approach, seeing possibilitiesfor women to exert their agency through the strength and pride exhibited in theirmothering practices (seeChodorow 1978; Dinnerstein 1976; Ruddick 1980). Theirviews yet again reflected a belief in the rootedness of the maternal role in nature, asthey grounded their claims in the idea that every woman has a deeply rooted, natu-ral, biologically determined desire to become a mother. Considering childbirth tobe a "natural" process that creates an immediate, instinctive "maternal bond" be-tween mother and child, these theorists not only implied that motherhood is thecore of womanhood but also that only women who are mothers can truly exercisetheir agency and reach full empowerment (Burner 1993). Romanticizing childbirthand pregnancy, these theories only strengthen the nature/culture divide in the dis-cussion of maternal "nature."A number of female anthropologists have taken a critical look at these theo-ries and stressed just how rooted in culture motherhood really is. Nancy Scheper-Hughes's (1992) account of poor women in a Brazilian shantytown, who guard-edly delay "bonding" with their newborn until the child has proven its will tosurvive, and Meira Weiss's (1994) analysis of Israeli parents' astonishingly highrate of rejection of physically impaired newborns paved the way toward the ruptureof the motherhood myth. Today, prominent anthropologists such as MarylinStrathern argue that "if nature has not disappeared, its grounding function has"(1992:195).Susan Kahn develops this idea, claiming that oppositions between "nature"and "artifice" are "profoundly destabilized by the advent of the new reproductivetechnologies, which have eclipsed "nature" and its ability to serve as a field ofmetaphors for culture" (1997:24). Other anthropologists who study reproduction,such as Sarah Franklin (1995,1998) and Rayna Rapp (1997), continue to challengethe nature/culture dichotomy in the sphere of the new reproductive technologiesand genetic testing, showing that "nature," now constructed by science, has essen-tially "become" culture.Dynamic Models of "Natural" KinshipDespite these convincing attempts to discredit the nature/motherhood contin-uum, the connection between motherhood and nature persists in the popular imagi-nation in many cultures (Lewin 1995). A large body of work on the anthropologyof reproduction has been devoted to elucidating the ways that infertile womendraw the line between nature and culture in their personal encounters with assistedconception. Studies conducted in the United States by Sandelowski (1993) on invitro fertilization (TVF) patients and by Lewin (1998) on lesbian mothers using donorinsemination document different ways that women "naturalize" such technologiesto make their own culturally assisted maternity more "natural." Comparing thenaturalization techniques used by IVF patients and parents through surrogacy,Cussins (1998b) has shown how the same technology can be oppositely "naturalized"according to different agendas. Whereas IVF patients using donor eggs dismissed
genetics and claimed maternity through gestation, parents through surrogacy ne-gated the importance of gestation in favor of a genetic kinship model.Ragone* (1998) has also described the act of selectively defining "natural kin-
in the context of surrogate motherhood. She presents cases of women whobegin the process of gestational surrogacy but become traditional surrogates afterIVF treatment fails. This change from gestating a nongenetically related fetus toproviding the female gamete brings about an explicit shift in the way such womendescribe their role. As gestational surrogates, they attribute their lack of maternalfeelings for the fetus to the fact that it is not genetically related to them. When thisgenetic kinship model no longer serves their purpose, however, they shift to a so-cial model in which desiring and nurturing a child is more significant than gesta-tion or genetics.Whereas in all of these studies, women draw on different kinship models tomake technologically assisted kinship more "natural," the women in my study ne-gotiate the meanings of nature and artifice in a way that aligns them both with theirown personal systems of meaning and with the reproductive goals of Israeli societyand the nation-state. This study thus presents another perspective on the "ontologi-cal choreographies" (Cussins 1996) of technologically assisted maternity, becauseIsraeli surrogates face the challenge of reconciling their actions not only with theirpersonal ideas regarding maternity but also with their pronatalist national culture.It is therefore important to outline the connection between maternity, nature, andnationalism in Israel."Nature," Motherhood, and Surrogacy in IsraelThe dominant ideologies surrounding maternity in many countries focus onthe"natural"role of women as mothers with special bonds to the children they bear(see, e.g., Gailey 2000; Inhorn 1994; Pashigian 2002). In Israel, however, this"natural" role is nationalized and deeply embedded in Israeli culture. Israeliwomen participate in what has been described as a "cult of fertility" underlain by apronatalist ideology of compulsory motherhood (Rappaport and Elor 1997). TheIsraeli reproductive impulse is rooted in a variety of factors, including the biblicaldirective of Jewish tradition to "be fruitful and multiply" and the emotional needsof
people in a permanent state of war (Yuval Davis 1989).In a country that situates the family as the cornerstone of the nation's con-struction, it comes as no surprise that women enter into symbolic relations with thestate specifically through their roles as wives and mothers (Rappaport and Elor
Reproduction is celebrated as the Jewish-Israeli woman's "national mis-
a notion that has been explored both as a product of social pressure and ofexplicit encouragement by the Israeli government (Amir and Benjamin 1997;Berkovitch 1997; Morgenstern-Leissner 2002).This pronatalist focus is symbolically expressed in the laws and regulationsrelating both to abortion and the new reproductive technologies. The cultural re-productive imperative is so strong that Israeli legislation actively encourages Israeliwomen to pursue technologically assisted reproduction. In contrast to other coun-
where IVF and donor insemination are illegal, limited lo married couples, orprivatized and extremely expensive, in Israel such procedures are both legal andfunded by the state. The National Insurance Law ensures full funding of artificial

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