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Michaelmas Term Newsletter '18
The ReproSoc team now has 9 postdocs, 3 administrators, 6 PhD students, 3 MPhils....
three golden corn cobs, two kefir bottles, and a sheep poet in a pear tree!
Director's Welcome
We began our year with a series of exciting new appointments, including Lois Gibbs, our new Administrator and Project Manager, and three new Postdoctoral Research Associates: Dr Kathryn Medien, Dr Karen Jent, and Dr Sigrid Vertommen -- all of whom will be leading work packages on our new three-year Wellcome funded research project, Changing (In)Fertilities. Launching this new project in concert with Charis Thompson's delivery of our fourth Annual Public Lecture, and the launch of the new Special Issue of RBMS she co-edited with Marcin Smietana on Making Families, was a high point of this past term for all of us. Alongside reports on our regular activities, visitors, conferences, publications and outreach events, you can read in this Newsletter about another important launch -- of the newest University of Cambridge Strategic Research Initiative, or SRI, which is *******REPRODUCTION!***** SRIs are highly competitive research designations awarded annually by the University Research Policy Committee to areas of unique strategic importance to Cambridge's research culture. Along with the award comes £50k per annum for five years to support and promote development of the area -- and in particular to deepen interdisciplinary collaboration. Cambridge is the first University ever to create a high profile, centrally funded, interdisciplinary research consortium focussed on reproduction. Cambridge's leadership in this area is due to more than two decades of prior work by many of our distinguished colleagues and affiliates including Martin Johnson, Marilyn Strathern, Susan Golombok, Nick Hopwood, Graham Burton, Ashley Moffet, Anne Ferguson-Smith, Simon Szreter, Azim Surani, Magda Zernicka-Goetz, and Zeynep Gurtin, who founded the first Cambridge Interdisciplinary Reproduction Forum (CIRF) in 2005. The importance of a truly interdisciplinary approach to reproduction could not have been more vividly exemplified than by the news on Monday 26 November that Dr He Jiankui of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen claimed to have engineered two gene-edited offspring, Lulu and Nana. To read more about this event you can visit our colleague Ayo Wahlberg's fascinating first hand account of this announcement in Hong Kong, where Ayo was a delegate, on our new Changing (In)Fertilities project website.  After such an event-filled term we obviously ended with a large party on December 7th including a multi-media combination of film, fire works, sheep, songs, light displays, cake, silly jumpers and well wishes to all for a festive holiday season. This has been a remarkable year for ReproSoc and we look forward to including even more partners and collaborators in our activities in 2019 and beyond. Happy Holidays! Sarah

Poppy wore her special antlers for our annual winter holiday party, where she was rewarded with some extra treats!
The Changing (In)Fertilities Network at our first international workshop in Newnham College
ReproSoc Annual Lecture: Reproduction in Migra-Political Times by Charis Thompson
We were honoured to host Professor Charis Thompson (London School of Economics, previously UC Berkeley) who delivered the fourth ReproSoc Annual Lecture ‘On Separation: Reproduction in Migra-Political Times’. Charis's groundbreaking contributions to the sociology of reproduction include the award-winning ethnography Making Parents: the Ontological Choreography of Reproductive Technologies (2005, MIT Press) and the landmark volume Good Science: the Ethical Choreography of Stem Cell Research (2013, MIT Press). It is thanks to these influential works that we have been using concepts such as ‘onotological choreography,’ ‘strategic naturalization,’ ‘selective pronatalism,’ ‘biomedical mode of reproduction,’ and ‘transnational circuits of stem cell innovation’. Her lecture reminded us that a key characteristic of Charis’s scholarship – in addition to the sophistication and elegance of her analyses - is her insistence on identifying the social hierarchies, inequalities and stratifications through which some lives are defined as worthier than others - and thus worthier of protection, support and the resources to ensure their successful reproduction. One of these hierarchical axes, as she notes, is migra-politics, which is making and breaking families, and alongside bio-politics and necropolitics, is shaping human and nonhuman lives. Professor Thompson made it evident to us that it is part of our accountability as academics to remind everyone how the histories and presents of slavery, colonialism, genocide, mass incarceration, migration and other technologies of separation contribute to the social hierarchies that shape our lives. The Pitt Building lecture hall was full, including Charis’s students and colleagues who travelled for this occasion from abroad, and the lecture was followed by a particularly vivid Q&A session.
Marcin Smietana
Charis Thompson gives the Fourth ReproSoc Annual Lecture
Zeynep Gurtin, Ayo Wahlberg, Sandra Gonzales Santos, Andrea Whittaker and Karen Jent at the Changing (In)Fertilities Meeting
New Changing (In)Fertilities Project
Changing (In)Fertilities is ReproSoc’s major new collaborative network grant funded by the Wellcome Trust (£1.5M). Changing (In)Fertilities is an attempt to transform the wider conversation about fertility and infertility – and about reproduction and reproductive politics more generally – in the post-IVF era, which has seen dramatic changes both in how in/fertilities are perceived, and how these perceptions are influencing fertility behaviours, interventions and policies. Our 3-year project will provide the first ever macrosociological characterisation of today’s distinctive fertility transitions, using detailed case studies from the UK and around the globe. Building on well-established research partnerships with 34 researchers in 16 countries we will be developing the largest comparative dataset ever assembled on changing in/fertilities and the political, ethical, economic and sociological questions they raise. This project is led by Professor Sarah Franklin and Professor Marcia Inhorn, and you can learn more on our new project website.
Lucy van de Wiel
Lucy van de Wiel and Sigrid Vertommen at the Changing (In)Fertilities Meeting
Changing (In)Fertilities Launch Event
On 2nd November we launched the Changing (In)Fertilities project with our first international workshop for all the network members. We welcomed our colleagues to beautiful Newnham College and discussed our intentions for the next three years. Everyone shared their reflections on the significance of thinking about in/fertility in relation to their own research projects, which span the globe. We also heard presentations from each of the Work Package Coordinators -- Kathryn Medien on Stratified (In)Fertilities, Lucy van de Wiel on Extended (In)Fertilities, Sigrid Vertommen on the Political Economy of (In)Fertilities, Katie Dow on (In)Fertile Environments, Karen Jent and Noemie Merleau-Ponty on Translating (In)Fertilities and Marcin Smietana on LGBTQ+ (In)Fertilities.  Afterwards we all visited the Reproductivities exhibition and the ReproSoc cornfield at Murray Edwards College, followed by a celebratory meal in the Riverside Restaurant in the University Centre. Next year we will hold the second meeting at the Yale-NUS campus in Singapore. 
Lucy van de Wiel
Yuliya Hilevych, Kathryn Medien and colleagues at the Changing (In)Fertilities Meeting
Sophie Seita performs Transpositions as part of the Cambridge Festival of ideas
Transpositions – Performance Event
In honour of the work of Nobel-prize winning plant scientist Barbara McClintock, we celebrated her key concept of transpositions in an evening of performance, ritual, and artistic exchange on the 24th of October. Responding to the Reproductivities exhibition and its scientific and artistic mediations of maize, performance artist Sophie Seita’s Transpositions performance reflected on the concept of transposition, queer kinship, and corn as a queer plant. The performance took place in Murray Edwards College’s iconic fountain courtyard and Dome Hall and included spoken text, song, dance, audience participation and live sound mixing. We enjoyed a full house with over 80 attendees and are grateful to a large team of volunteers and collaborators who helped to create original costumes, music, graphic design and contributed to realising a truly unique and immersive event.
Lucy van de Wiel

Transpositions was part of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas
Artist: Sophie Seita
ReproSoc curators: Sarah Franklin, Lucy van de Wiel
New Hall Art Collection curators: Harriet Loffler, Sarah Greaves, Eliza Gluckman
Creative development, live sound, composition: Caroline Ophis
Costume and book design: Jasmine Brady
Poster: Naomi Polonsky
New Article by Noémie Merleau-Ponty
We are excited to announce that the article 'I6 passages: on the reproduction of a human embryonic stem cell line from Israel to France', written by our Research Associate Noémie Merleau-Ponty, alongside Sigrid Vertommen & Michel Pucéat, has just been released and is available via open access. This article has been published as part of the special issue of New Genetics and Society, 'Biobanks and the Reconfiguration of the Living', which has been co-edited by Noémie Merleau-Ponty. The issue aims to shed light on the biotechnological manufacturing of life in biobanks and the ways this form of living is socialised. It explores the role of biobanks in the reconfigurations of the living, as they constitute a central place in the manufacture of biological resources.
Lucy van de Wiel's article accepted for publication by the Sociology of Health and Illness
Lucy's article, 'The Datafication of Reproduction: Time-lapse Embryo Imaging and the Commercialisation of IVF', focuses on the new forms of knowledge and value production emerging with time-lapse embryo imaging and situates these in the techno-economic dynamics of an emerging global reproductive data infrastructure. She argues that whether or not datafied embryo selection results in higher IVF success rates, these methods fundamentally change the conceptualisation and commercialisation of the assisted reproductive process.  As such, she argues, they signal a broader reconfiguration of power relations in the political economy of assisted reproduction and digital health.
Inaugural Event: University of Cambridge Strategic Research Initiative on Reproduction
Together with colleagues from many disciplines, we celebrated the launch of the new Strategic Research Initiative on Reproduction at Cambridge on December 7th. Strategic Research Initiatives, or SRIs, are a high prestige research designation by the University of a key strategic research area that must involve cross-School and interdisciplinary collaboration. Areas selected for this award receive five years of funding to appoint a coordinator to enhance their activities. As the Chair of this new Initiative, Professor Graham Burton, stated  at the launch, the Reproduction SRI has been a long time coming and represents the very first initiative of this kind launched by any university. The new SRI is co-chaired by Sarah Franklin, Nick Hopwood and Anne Ferguson Smith. This well-attended event featured a strong contribuiton from ReproSoc, with presentations by Robert Pralat and Lucy van de Wiel, and a selection of our videos on why reproduction matters. We also heard short interdisciplinary talks from scientists, medics, historians, classicists, psychologists and literary scholars, and discussed key concerns about reproduction over tea. ReproSoc are looking forward to participating in and contributing to many future events in this fabulous initiative.
Karen Jent
Nick Hopwood at the SRI launch on the 7th December
The long awaited landmark 730 page volume Reproduction, edited by Nick Hopwood, Rebecca Flemming and Lauren Kassell, was launched by Cambridge University Press on the 7th December, congratulations to the editors!
Katie Dow's guest lecture at the Controversies in Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Infertility annual congress
I was honoured to present the Edwards and Steptoe Research Fund - Reproductive BioMedicine and Society guest lecture at the Controversies in Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Infertility (COGI) annual congress in London in November. My lecture, 'The Birth of the First "Test-Tube Baby" in the British Press', was an overview of my research into the British press' representation of Robert Edwards, Patrick Steptoe and the Brown family in the coverage of the birth of the world's first IVF baby, Louise Brown, in 1978. It was a great opportunity to present my research to a different audience - mostly clinicians - and I enjoyed discussing the history of IVF with other attendees. Thank you to Martin Johnson for inviting me and to the Edwards and Steptoe Research Fund for supporting my attendance.
Katie Dow
ReproSess Michaelmas 2018
As always, we had productive and insightful discussions at our regular work-in-progress (ReproSess) meetings during Michaelmas term, during which we received work-in-progress drafts and heard short presentations from our two new Research Associates – Karen Jent and Kathryn Medien – and our two Visiting Scholars: Gabriela Hertig, from the Graduate Institute in Geneva, and Riikka Homanen, from the University of Tampere. Karen presented her paper on the ‘biological control in post-genomic stem cell science’, developing the concept of ‘niche biology in translation’; Kathryn introduced us to the ‘reproductive infrastructures of colonial occupation’ in her paper on the ‘Depo-Provera affair’; Gabriela shared her insights about doing ethnographic work on ‘cellular practices’ in India and 'what makes stem-cell therapies work’; and Riikka showed us what it means to be ‘a valuable egg donor in Finland’, paying attention to notions of care and control. We look forward to seeing the outcomes of our colleagues’ work in the near future!
Robert Pralat
ReproDoc Screening
This term’s ReproDoc was Birthright: A War Story, which is a recent documentary on reproductive politics in the USA. The film-makers describe it as the ‘real Handmaid’s Tale’. The feature-length film documents the contemporary curtailing of women’s reproductive rights and freedoms in America whilst also aiming to inspire resistance to the ‘war on women’ and strengthen reproductive justice by engaging in civic, legal and political processes. 
Katie Dow
Special Issue Launch: ‘Making Families’
On 1 November we also launched a very special special issue of Reproductive BioMedicine & Society, ‘Making Families: Queer Kinship, Transnational Surrogacy and Reproductive Justice,’ guest edited by Charis Thompson and me. The 15 papers in this volume bring together three powerful frames for thinking about contemporary reproduction that are rarely read together, namely queer reproductions, stratified reproduction and reproductive justice. Based on a conference at UC Berkeley in 2016, 'Making Families' is freely available  (for some of the papers please also check the ‘In Press’ section on the journal website). This issue also includes five reviews in the innovative new arts and culture section, ‘What’s Out There?,’ edited by Katharine Dow. The journal editor Sarah Franklin, editorial assistant Maria Murphy, and several contributors, were delighted to celebrate the launch of this special issue together with  many ReproSoc members and other guests. We were also delighted to welcome several of the Changing (In)fertilities project team members – as well our steering group member Professor Dame Marilyn Strathern. We hope this issue will be of interest to many of you, and that it will open up new and important conversations between gay rights perspectives and the critical analysis of surrogacy, as well as the broader feminist analysis of stratified reproduction and reproductive justice.
Marcin Smietana
Guest editors, Marcin Smietana and Charis Thompson
IVF: Six Million Babies Later exhibition at the Science Museum
Science Museum Field Trip
On Halloween, ReproSoc organised a field trip to see the exhibition  IVF: Six Million Babies Later, at the Science Museum in London. For our visit, which included Reproductive Sociology MPhil and PhD students, we were hosted by the museum's Head of Contemporary Science Ling Lee, who curated the exhibition along with Connie Orbach. Several members of ReproSoc including Sarah Franklin, Lucy van de Wiel,  Martin Johnson and myself helped advise on the exhibition and both Sarah and Martin can be spotted in videos playing in it. After Ling spoke to us about its design and development behind the scenes, we had the opportunity to look around this fascinating exhibition, in which one of the most powerful exhibits on display is the case that depicts what it takes to complete a round of IVF.
Katie Dow
Lucy van de Wiel joins the Alan Turing Institute
Lucy van de Wiel has joined the Alan Turing Institute for data science as a Turing Fellow. Alongside her work at ReproSoc, she will spend a portion of her time at the Turing Institute at the British Library in London. This affiliation will benefit her new research project on the datafication of reproduction, which deals with the intersection of data technologies and reproductive technologies. This research explores how reproductive decisions such as which embryo to implant in the womb are increasingly made in conjunction with data technologies and the large data sets they generate. It is primarily concerned with data-driven embryo selection technologies, such as time-lapse embryo imaging and preimplantation genetic screening. The project both considers the role of these technologies in patients' and medical professionals' treatment experiences and characterises the broader political-economic and sociocultural drivers of their emergence in contemporary IVF. Congratulations to Lucy on being awarded this prestigious fellowship to undertake vital research at the intersections of reproductive and digital/virtual technologies. 
Karen Jent graduates!
Dr Karen Jent successfully defended her PhD, which is a quietly groundbreaking ethnographic study of stem cell scientists in Scotland and New York, based on a detailed analysis of the complex  relationalities both embedded in and modelled by the concept of the niche.  Karen's work was supported by the Wellcome Trust, as well as a fieldwork grant from the Wenner Gren Foundation in New York, and she was co-supervised by Sarah Franklin and Janelle Lamoreaux. Having successfully passed her viva in December 2017,  Dr Jent has now been officially awarded her degree. As well as celebrating this happy occasion, we were delighted to host Karen’s parents and godmother, who joined us for lunch on their visit to Cambridge for the graduation ceremony. This was also an opportunity to learn where Karen gets her notorious generosity from, as her family arrived with copious amounts of Swiss chocolate, cake and cheese to share with the ReproSoc team, which we greatly appreciated and enjoyed. Congratulations Karen!
Katie Dow
New article by Robert Pralat
Journal of Family Issues has recently published an article by our Leverhulme Research Fellow Robert Pralat. The article, titled ‘More natural does not equal more normal: Lesbian, gay, and bisexual people’s views about different pathways to parenthood’, draws on findings from Robert’s doctoral research and is part of a special issue of JFI addressed to the question of how LGBTQ people redefine the meaning of family. In his article, Robert argues that, when it comes to understanding parenthood, ‘normality’ and ‘naturalness’ have fundamentally contradictory meanings, which complicates the goal of defining which types of family or parenting are ‘in children’s best interests’.
Sarah Franklin delivered the Munro Lecture in Edinburgh in November based on her archival work on the Warnock Committee deliberations.
New ReproSoc Members
Kathryn Medien
This term we welcomed Kathryn Medien to ReproSoc, who has joined us as a research associate, and will coordinate the Changing (In)Fertilities work package on Stratified (In)fertilities. Her research combines her interests in colonialism, anti-racism, reproduction, gender and sexuality, and she is currently researching the relationship between sexuality and Israel’s occupation of Palestine through a focus on sexual violence, the regulation of mixed-relationships, and reproductive technologies and medicine. 
Lois Gibbs
We were also pleased to welcome Lois Gibbs this term, who has joined the Department of Sociology's support team, and will provide administrative assistance to Sarah Franklin, and for the new Changing (In)Fertilities grant. Lois will be coordinating the second international meeting of Changing (In)Fertilities next October in Singapore and has already eliminated over 20,000 emails from Sarah Franklin's Inbox. Congratulations Lois!
Elisabeth Sandler
This term we were also joined by Elisabeth Sandler, who was an MPhil student on our Sociology of Reproduction pathway last year. Elisabeth played a key role in delivering our highly successful Remaking Reproduction conference last summer and is now serving as an intern to assist with research and ReproSoc administration. Elisabeth is also a highly accomplished and popular baker - specialising in traditional Austrian cakes for our famous Reproductivi-Teas.
Visiting Scholars
Gabriela Hertig
We are joined this year by Gabriela Hertig, a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland working under the supervision of Professor Aditya Bharadwaj. Gabiela was awarded a highly prestigious year-long PhD studentship from the Swiss National Science Foundation, and we are thrilled to have her join our team. Her PhD explores stem cell biotechnologies in India, and how their translation can be understood as a mixed process of disparate forces. In her work she elaborates how the everyday commercial and therapeutic provision of stem cell treatments in India is entangled with normative regimes of science and translational medicine, the formalisation of (bio)ethics and regulatory concerns globally and within India. 
Riikka Homanen
This term we were joined by Dr Riikka Homanen who works as a University Researcher at the University of Tampere and as a Visiting Fellow at the University of Helsinki, Finland. She is currently working in an Academy of Finland project “Valuating Lives through Infertility and Dementia: Science, Law and Patient Activism” (VALDA) and is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Sosiologia.  Rikka's work is ethnographic and firmly grounded in gender studies, sociology and feminist science and technology studies. Just before leaving us Rikka was awarded two new grants, from the Kone Foundation for a research project and to fund a Finnish Reproductive Studies Network (FiResNet). We are of course very excited to have another pyromaniac help lead our 'hot networking' efforts, and are very pleased that the new Finnish FIRES Network has received funding to cover many key overlapping topics that match so well with ReproSoc. Rikka writes to say that she is very grateful to everyone in ReproSoc for making her visit such a success, and we are happy to reply that we will certainly keep the home hearth well lit at our end!
Lynne Selwood's Marsupial Embryo Cleavage Film Screening
In the 1980s, one of the world's leading marsupial biologists, Lynne Selwood, undertook a major project of filming the development of early-stage embryos in her office, using highly innovative methods. 'I had to turn my office into a uterus', she recalled, in effect creating a warm, dark film studio to enable her to overcome the difficulties of capturing marsupial development on screen. Earlier this term we were privileged to be able to watch the film with Lynne present and revisit a fascinating chapter in the history of reproductive biology. This film makes an important contribution not only to our work on the 'mammalian turn' in developmental biology but to the intersection of reproductive and visual technologies.
Sarah Franklin
Sarah Franklin and Marieke Bigg attended the aptly timed 14 day rule Brosher Foundaiton summit in Geneva just after the first gene editing of human embryos had been announced.
New Video
Following on from our international conference, 'Remaking Reproduction', the ReproSoc team interviewed Professor Magda Zernicka-Goetz to find out her views on why reproduction matters today, and what role research has to play. Make sure to visit our website where the full series of 'Why Reproduction Matters?' videos can be viewed
New Blog Posts
This term we published three new blog posts on the ReproSoc blog, and one on the new Changing (In)Fertilities website:
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ReproSoc · Mond Building · New Museums Site · Cambridge, UK CB2 3RQ · United Kingdom

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