Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Conflicted Conceptions: An Ethnography of Assisted Reproduction Practices in Argentina

In this ethnography, I focus on the community of reproductive medicine professionals in Argentina to examine how assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are transformed according to local conditions of practice, as well as how they are transformative of the societies they newly inhabit. Based on three continuous years of ethnographic, interview and archival research conducted primarily in Buenos Aires, my findings reveal that the production of ART in a given place is not a culturally-neutral process, but rather involves local forms of science, medicine, modernity, morality and choice. In chapter one, I give a contextual history of how ART began in Argentina, and locate today's Argentine infertility specialists within a transnational network of training, scientific prestige, innovation and competition. In chapter two, I examine the specificities of the local production of ART in Buenos Aires, which include a series of moral positions on family, motherhood, and the role of the Catholic Church in medical practice, as well as creative maneuverings around legal, economic and political constraints. In chapter three, I analyze the practice of gamete donation in Argentina, in which beliefs about genetic inheritance, options for family making, and the market-side of reproductive medicine all intersect. In chapter four, I focus on the problematic of the morally and legally ambiguous embryo, and examine two techniques in particular, embryo cryopreservation and preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), to illustrate how medical and scientific protocols are translated to fit local conditions of practice. Throughout these chapters I argue that the production of these medical technologies are shifting deeply rooted beliefs about the sanctity of human life and the role of technology in manipulating that life. I conclude that currently in Argentina the reproductive medicine professionals who provide ART to the public are society's moral guardians, diagnosing the healthy body and family, defining when personhood begins, and dictating what protections are due human life. In the last instance, this cultural analysis is revealing not only of assisted reproduction practices in Argentina, but also circulates back to inform the production of ART as a global medical technology.