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Other titles in the Body, Commodity, Text: Studies of Objectifying Practice series:
Reproducing Jews: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception in Israel (Body, Commodity, Text)by Susan Martha Kahn
Synopses & Reviews
There are more fertility clinics per capita in Israel than in any other country in the world and Israel has the world's highest per capita rate of in-vitro fertilization procedures. Fertility treatments are fully subsidized by Israeli national health insurance and are available to all Israelis, regardless of religion or marital status. These phenomena are not the result of unusually high rates of infertility in Israel but reflect the centrality of reproduction in Judaism and Jewish culture.
In this ethnographic study of the new reproductive technologies in Israel, Susan Martha Kahn explores the cultural meanings and contemporary rabbinic responses to artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization, egg donation, and surrogacy. Kahn draws on fieldwork with unmarried Israeli women who are using state-subsidized artificial insemination to get pregnant and on participant-observation in Israeli fertility clinics. Through close readings of traditional Jewish texts and careful analysis of Israeli public discourse, she explains how the Israeli embrace of new reproductive technologies has made Jewish beliefs about kinship startlingly literal. Kahn also reveals how a wide range of contemporary Israelis are using new reproductive technologies to realize their reproductive futures, from ultraorthodox infertile married couples to secular unmarried women.
As the first scholarly account of assisted conception in Israel, this multisited ethnography will contribute to current anthropological debates on kinship studies. It will also interest those involved with Jewish studies.
There are more fertility clinics per capita in Israel than in any other country in the world. This phenomenon is not the result of high rates of infertility but of the centrality and political importance that the Jewish community has placed on reproduction. It was this statistic that prompted Susan Martha Kahn to embark on an ethnographic study of the social uses, cultural meanings, and contemporary rabbinic responses to Israel's methods of artificial reproduction.
To support her analytical perspectives Kahn draws on interviews with unmarried Israeli women who are using state-subsidized artificial insemination to get pregnant and her own experiences as a participant-observer in Israeli fertility clinics. After analyzing rabbinic kinship cosmology through close readings of relevant traditional Jewish texts, she explains how new reproductive technologies have been accommodated and even embraced by orthodox rabbis in Israel. Above all, Reproducing Jews reveals how unmarried Jewish women are explicitly valued as reproductive resources in Israel, whether they are encouraged to donate eggs for married Jewish women when undergoing their own fertility treatments, privileged as surrogate mothers in Israel's surrogacy legislation, or encouraged to reproduce autonomously via new reproductive technologies. Unlike birth control, Kahn explains, artificial insemination, ovum donation, and in-vitro fertilization are subsidized by Israeli national health insurance and provided by fertility specialists who have emerged as global leaders in the research and development of these technologies.
As the first scholarly account of assisted conception in Israel, this multi-sited ethnography will contributeto current anthropological debates on kinship studies. It will also interest those involved with Jewish studies.
Explores the debates about new reproductive technologies in Israel and how they fit with Orthodox Jewish laws concerning parentage and Jewish identity.
About the Author
Susan Martha Kahn is Associate Director at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University.
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