In earlier times, a woman knew she was pregnant when she experienced "quickening" - she felt movement within her. Today a woman relies on what she sees in a test result or a digital sonogram image to confirm her pregnancy. A private experience, once mediated by women themselves, has become a public experience interpreted and controlled by medical professionals. In this study, the author takes a closer look at this contemporary transformation of women's experience of pregnancy. She suggests that advances in technology, and parallel changes in public discourse, have transformed pregnancy into a managed process. The mother is defined as an ecosystem, and the foetus as an endangered species. Drawing on historical research, Duden traces the graphic techniques - from anatomist's drawings and woodcuts, to X-rays and ultrasound - used to "flay" the female body and turn it inside out. Emphasizing the iconic power of the visual within 20th-century culture, she follows the process by which the pregnant woman's flesh has been peeled away to uncover scientific data. Lennart Nilsson's now famous photographs of the embryo, published in "Life" magazine in the mid 1960s, stand in stark contrast to representations of the invisible unborn in medieval iconography or 16th-century painting. Illumination has given way to illustration, ideogram to facsimile, the contemplative intuition of the body to a scientific analysis of its component parts. New ways of seeing the body produce new ways of experiencing the body. Because technology allows us to penetrate that once-secret enclosure of the womb, the image of the foetus, has eclipsed that of woman in the public mind. Society, anxious about the health of the global environment, has focused on protecting "life" in the maternal ecosystem, in effect, pitting foetus against mother. Duden's reading of the body lends a unique historical and philosophical perspective to contemporary debate over such topics as foetal rights, reproductive technologies, abortion, and the right to privacy. This work should reinvigorate the debate by calling into question contemporary certainties, and the policies and programmes they serve to justify.
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Number of pages: 134
Weight: 396 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 17 mm
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