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Disembodying Women: Perspectives on Pregnancy and the Unborn

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Disembodying Women: Perspectives on Pregnancy and the Unborn Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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 Disembodying Women Barbara Duden 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 refrained pregnancy as a managed process, the mother as an ecosystem, and the fetus as an endangered species.

Drawing on extensive historical research, Duden traces the graphic techniques-from anatomists' drawings to 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 twentieth-century culture, Duden 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 sixteenth-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 fetus, exposed to public gaze, 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 fetus against mother.

Duden's reading of the body lends a unique historical and philosophical perspective to contemporary debate over fetal rights, reproductive technologies, abortion, and the right to privacy. This provocative work should reinvigorate that debate by calling into question contemporary certainties and the policies and programs they serve to justify.

Book News Annotation:

First published in German in 1991 (Luchterhand Literaturverlag GmbH). The author, a historian, traces the impact of graphic techniques--from anatomists' drawings to woodcuts to X rays and ultrasound--that have shaped our conception of the fetus. Her work lends a unique historical and philosophical perspective to contemporary debate over fetal rights, reproductive technology, abortion, and the right to privacy.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

About the Author

Barbara Duden has been on the faculty of the Science, Technology, and Society Program at Pennsylvania State University and is currently a Fellow at the Institute for Cultural Studies, Essen, Germany.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780674212671
Translator:
Hoinacki, Lee
Author:
Hoinacki, Lee
Author:
Duden, Barbara
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Location:
Cambridge, Mass. :
Subject:
Women's Studies
Subject:
Domestic Relations - Children
Subject:
Pregnancy & Childbirth
Subject:
Pregnancy
Subject:
Public opinion
Subject:
Body, human
Subject:
Fetus
Subject:
Pregnant women
Subject:
Body, Human -- Social aspects.
Subject:
Pregnant women -- Public opinion -- History -- 20th century.
Subject:
Women's Studies - General
Subject:
General History
Subject:
Modern - General
Subject:
History
Subject:
Pregnancy -- Moral and ethical aspects.
Subject:
Gender Studies-Womens Studies
Subject:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Women
Subject:
s Studies
Subject:
Social Science-Abortion & Birth Control
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Series Volume:
no. 683
Publication Date:
19930101
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
126
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in .8 lb

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Related Subjects

Business » Tax Guides
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Medical Specialties
History and Social Science » Gender Studies » Womens Studies
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » Sociology » Abortion and Birth Control
History and Social Science » World History » 1650 to Present
Humanities » Philosophy » General

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