Gender Talk Series with Celia Roberts
This GEXcel seminar will take place on Zoom. If you wish to attend please contact Jennie Särnmark at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please remember to register the latest by November 15th! The link will then be sent out the day before the seminar to the registered e-mail.
Reproductive biosensing and self-tracking in the Capitolocene
Celia Roberts, Australian National University
It is a core feature of our times (which I here, following Donna Haraway, call the Capitolocene) that many wealthy countries are beginning to experience low fertility. Increasing numbers of people are limiting their family size or choosing not to have children, and many find themselves unable to reproduce.
Rising concern around fertility – felt by individuals, fostered through capitalist media and production, and articulated by government policies – coincides with a notable uptake of self-tracking and biosensing practices to monitor ovulation and to time intercourse or insemination. (These practices can, of course, also help avoid pregnancy.) At the same time, environmental and public health concerns are also reshaping reproductive lives and politics, often in confusing and contradictory ways.
Some environmentalists organise campaigns about the negative impact of toxins on fertility, for example, whilst others present arguments about over-population, encouraging would-be parents to consider babies’ carbon footprints. Deciding and/or trying to have children in this fraught space can be a tough process.
In this paper I will present new data from a study of people who had babies during the Australian bushfires of 2019-20 and the Covid-19 pandemic to explore these contemporary dilemmas and to make tentative suggestions about ways forward.
Celia Roberts is Professor in the School of Sociology, Australian National University, Canberra. She is the author (with Adrian Mackenzie and Maggie Mort) of Living Data: Making sense of health biosensing (Bristol University Press, 2019) and Puberty in Crisis: The sociology of sexual development (Cambridge University Press, 2015) and has worked on issues relating to reproduction, health technologies and sex for several decades.
She is currently writing a book on reproduction in climate crisis with Mary Lou Rasmussen, Rebecca Williamson and Louisa Allen.