Lifestyle Sex Selection: Reproduction, Transnational Flows, and Inequality

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Bhatia, Rajani
Thornton Dill, Bonnie
This dissertation examines new practices and technologies of sex selection with a particular focus on the interrelationship between the scientific products that enable these practices; the discursive production of these practices through news media, promotional literature and self-help communication; and the institutional operations of U.S. clinics both within and across national borders. In the late 1990s mass print and television media began heralding the emergence of new technologies as the answer to a long quest for scientifically proven methods for selecting the sex of a child. MicroSort and preimplantation genetic diagnosis gained considerable attention as methods of sex selection that diverged from earlier technologies because they do not require an abortion. Instead, both methods are applied before pregnancy and must be used in conjunction with assisted reproduction such as in-vitro fertilization. Along with the technologies appeared new discourses that make-meaning of these practices and new institutional mechanisms that embed them within a larger phenomenon of cross-(national) border reproductive practices. Using a genealogical approach, I trace how these three processes (material, discursive and institutional) configure a new form of sex selection at the same time as they construct a stratified system of global sex selection practices, contrasting reasonable, lifestyle motivations in the West with gender-biased forms in the East. The research uses qualitative, multi-sited modes of analysis and extends feminist STS scholarship on reproductive technologies by shifting focus to a transnational realm as manifested in what is currently conceptualized as "cross-border" reproductive practices. Against a shifting terrain of transnational reproductive practices, the study aims to displace a dichotomous framing of global sex selection practices that polarizes western from eastern practices with the more varied and complex movements that take place in cross -bordered sex selection. The study examines an emerging form of sex selection as an optic through which to theorize and reframe the meanings and interconnections among reproduction, transnational, and inequality, thereby generating new directions in feminist theorizing on reproduction.