Embryo Watching. How IVF Has Remade Biology

Sarah Franklin


Abstract: In addition to being one of the most iconic of the new reproductive technologies introduced in the late twentieth century, in vitro fertilization is also a technology of representation – a looking glass into conception, a window onto early human development, and as such a new form of public spectacle. Still a rapidly expanding global biomedical service sector, IVF technology is also the source of new images of human origins, and thus offers a new visual grammar of coming into being. This lecture explores these connections, and argues that the micromanipulation imagery associated with IVF, and now a routine feature of news coverage and popular debate of NRTs, also introduces a new connection between cells and tools, thus returning us to one of the oldest sociological questions – the question concerning technology. Moving between IVF as a technology of reproduction, and a visual technology, enables us to revisit a series of broad sociological questions concerning technology, reproduction, genealogy and the future of biological control from the unique perspective offered by the conversion of the human embryo into both a tool and a lens.

Keywords: IVF; micromanipulation; human embryo; biological control; visual culture.

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