The Assisted Reproduction of Race

The Assisted Reproduction of Race

Camisha A. Russell
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 12/06/2018
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-253-03582-0
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The use of assisted reproductive technologies (ART)--in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, and gestational surrogacy--challenges contemporary notions of what it means to be parents or families. Camisha A. Russell argues that these technologies also bring new insight to ideas and questions surrounding race. In her view, if we think of ART as medical technology, we might be surprised by the importance that people using them put on race, especially given the scientific evidence that race lacks a genetic basis. However if we think of ART as an intervention to make babies and parents, as technologies of kinship, the importance placed on race may not be so surprising after all. Thinking about race in terms of technology brings together the common academic insight that race is a social construction with the equally important insight that race is a political tool which has been and continues to be used in different contexts for a variety of ends, including social cohesion, economic exploitation, and political mastery. As Russell explores ideas about race through their role in ART, she brings together social and political views to shift debates from what race is to what race does, how it is used, and what effects it has had in the world.

Author Bio

Camisha Russell is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oregon.


“By exploring the role race plays in reproductive assisting technologies, philosopher Camisha Russell brilliantly reveals race itself as a form of technological reproduction. The Assisted Reproduction of Race is a compelling critique of the way modern science and its technologies continue to remake and use race in a neoliberal era. Deeply engaged with a multidisciplinary array of scholars, Russell makes an essential contribution to critical philosophy of race, bioethics, and technoscience studies.”
 — Dorothy Roberts, author of Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty

“Camisha A. Russell makes a strong case that race has a history of practices, not just a history of ideas, and that eugenics is more central to these practices than we have assumed so far. I know of no other work that drives this point home as well as Russell's does, precisely thanks to her focus on assisted reproductive technologies.”
 — Margret Grebowicz, author of Whale Song

“Camisha Russell’s impressive examination of assisted reproductive technologies considers an aggregate of practices that are dependent on the persistence of race as an organizing principle, even as the concept of race is fundamentally discredited. In demonstrating that discourses of race continually and clandestinely produce coherent frameworks for these and other social practices, she offers us crucial insights into why race and racism have proven to be so intransigent.”
 — Angela Davis, author of Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement

“An incisive use of bioethics, history of philosophy, and race theory to analyze a contemporary issue that is generally not understood as racialized—how the concept of race is conceived and utilized in assisted reproductive technology.”
 — Jacqueline Scott, editor (with Judith Treas and Martin Richards) of The Wiley Blackwell Companion to the Sociology of Families

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Table of Contents


Introduction: From What Race Is to What Race Does


Assisted Reproductive Technologies

Critical Philosophy of Race

The Debate over the "Reality" of Race

Nature, Culture, or Politics?

Description of Chapters

1. Reproductive Technologies are Not "Post-Racial"

Beyond the "Bioethical" Approach

Whose Progress?

The "Problem" of Infertility

Reproducing Inequalities

Race and the "Natural"


2. Race Isn’t Just Made, It’s Used

Race as Technology

Heidegger’s Essence of Technology

Foucault’s Focus on Technologies


3. A Technological History of Race

Backdoor to Eugenics?

The Technological Science of Race

Kant’s Scientific Concept of Race

Race as Envisioned and Purposive

Race as Producible and Produced

Race, Heredity, and Eugenics Proper

A Note on Heidegger


4. "I Just Want Children Like Me"

Putting Race to Work

Race, Blood, and American Kinship

Denying Common Origins--The American Polygenists

Discouraging Intimacy and Disallowing Kinship

Separation After Slavery

The "Blood" in our "Genes"


5. Race and Choice in the Era of Liberal Eugenics

The Neo-Liberal Regime of Truth

Technologies of the Self

The Personal and the Political in Assisted Reproduction

Technologies of the Self as Technologies of Race