Maternity in Crisis: Con(tra)ceptive Politics in Millennial Imaginaries Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 22, 2019
  • Fixmer-Oraiz, Natalie
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Communication
  • This dissertation is broadly situated at the nexus where contraceptive technologies, cultural (re)production, rhetorical theory, and feminism meet. I am primarily concerned with the discursive terrain in which reproductive politics unfold, particularly surrounding the recent emergence and significance of con(tra)ceptive technologies imagined to manage reproductive emergencies. I use the term con(tra)ceptive technologies broadly to reference internalized, disciplinary and/or social mechanisms that function as sites for the expression and negotiation of cultural anxiety/desire, and work to (re)configure and/or (re)inscribe the meaning of pregnancy, reproduction, and motherhood. In part articulated by a politics of life itself and framed within the context of neoliberalism, I argue that these technologies circulate within, and are given velocity by, broader cultural configurations that privilege a posting of feminism, race politics, and the events of 9/11. As such, this project examines the unfolding of emergency reproductive technologies as potential sites for the rearticulation and/or undermining of differential biopolitical power formations, and the constituting of legitimate maternity and citizenship in contemporary imaginaries. Each chapter examines a distinct site where this cultural work is occurring--for example, the contentious debates surrounding the availability of emergency contraception, Nadya Suleman's high-profile motherhood as a disciplining force within the complex terrain of assisted reproductive technologies, and the recent obsession with crisis teen pregnancy in popular media. While these sites may seem divergent in character, critical communication theories invite the mapping of their overlaps and continuities to ask broader questions at the intersections of power, meaning, and culture. Thus, my analysis is largely centered on the circulation of narratives within popular culture through news, film, and television, with a generated sensitivity to the ways in which they cohere, signify, and constitute meaning and subjectivities. I argue that discursive figurations of reproductive crises work to negotiate cultural anxieties surrounding con(tra)ceptive technologies through a narrow (re)inscription of the borders of authentic or legitimate motherhood, and that this contributes to a disciplining of women that fractures along myriad lines of social difference. In this way, my research is explicitly attuned to the functioning of power, and articulated to a vision of reproductive justice.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Cox, J. Robert
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2012

This work has no parents.