Past Event

Conception and Its Discontents

May 8, 2023 - May 9, 2023
9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
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Heyman Center (Second Floor Common Room), Columbia University, New York

Event Description

Medical technologies have radically transformed the biological and social experience of motherhood. Advances in genomic and reproductive care, the circulation of novel kinship structures, the entrenchment of existing global networks of power and privilege, and the politics of contested bodily sites mark this emerging constellation.

Technological advancements have in particular impacted not just the understanding of conception, but the very process by which a human embryo is created, implanted, and matured. Egg freezing, embryo storage, IVF, and surrogacy afford women new freedoms in choosing when and how to become mothers, while also raising troubling questions about the pressures of capitalism and the extension of worklife, as well as the global inequalities present in the experience of motherhood. In addition, technologies have arisen allowing for unprecedented control over not just who becomes a mother, but what kind of embryo is allowed to be implanted and to grow. Technologies such as CRISPR and NIPT have re-introduced the question of eugenics, radically shifting the very epistemology of motherhood and what it means to be “expecting.” And contemporary abortion debates draw on technology in order to make arguments both for and against access, with imaging technologies being instrumentalized in the building of a sympathetic case for the unborn, and the very notion of a “heartbeat bill” reliant on the misreading of technologies for measuring fetal activity.

Event Information

Free and open to the public; registration required. For more information, please visit the event webpage or email [email protected]. Please visit the Heyman’s Center website for directions. All in-person attendees must follow Columbia's COVID-19 policies. Visitors will be asked to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Hosted by the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University.