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Race, Gender, and Genetic Technologies: A New Reproductive Dystopia?

Dorothy E. Roberts
Signs
Vol. 34, No. 4 (Summer 2009), pp. 783-804
DOI: 10.1086/597132
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/597132
Page Count: 22
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Race, Gender, and Genetic Technologies: A New Reproductive Dystopia?
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Abstract

Abstract In the 1980s, Margaret Atwood, Gena Corea, and other feminists envisioned dystopias in which wealthy white women’s reproduction was valued and privileged and women of color’s reproduction was devalued and exploited. In subsequent decades, feminist scholars continued to criticize the stratification of reproduction by contrasting policies that penalize poor nonwhite women’s childbearing, on the one hand, with the high‐tech fertility industry that promotes childbearing by more affluent white women, on the other. In recent years, however, companies that market race‐based biotechnologies have promised to extend the benefits of genetic research to people of color, and media promoting genetic technologies have prominently featured their images. At the same time, the important role of genetic screening that makes individual citizens responsible for ensuring good health by reducing genetic risk may support the wider incorporation of genetic technologies into the neoliberal health care system. I argue, therefore, that we need a new reproductive dystopia that accounts for the changing political context of reproduction. This article critically explores the role of race and racism in the emergence of reproductive technologies that incorporate advances in genetic science and considers the implications of including women of color in the market for reprogenetic technologies, particularly when this is done with the expectation that women will use these technologies to manage genetic risk. In investigating these issues, I hope to shed light on the critical relationship between racism, neoliberalism, and reproduction.

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