By Lisa M. Mitchell
Appearing via advancements in drugs, in risky debates over abortion rights, in renowned publications to being pregnant, and in ads for automobiles and long-distance phone plans, the fetus has develop into an more and more accepted a part of our social panorama in Canada. Lisa Mitchell offers a severe anthropological point of view at the fetal topic, quite because it emerges in the course of the perform of ultrasound imaging.
'Seeing the baby,' is now a regimen and anticipated a part of being pregnant and prenatal care in Canada. Conventionally understood as a impartial and passive know-how, ultrasound seems to be a 'window' by which to watch fetal intercourse, age, measurement, actual normality, and behavior. although, Mitchell argues, what's noticeable via ultrasound is neither self-evident nor average, yet traditionally and culturally contingent and topic to a variety of interpretation.
Drawing upon fieldwork during the last ten years, the writer comprises observations at ultrasound clinics, interviews with pregnant girls and their companions, and a dialogue on how ultrasound's echoes turn into significant as 'baby's first photo' - a photograph of the fetus in utero.
Throughout, Mitchell probes our reputation of this expertise, our willingness to take fetal imaging without any consideration, and illuminates the hyperlinks among this technologically mediated 'fetal truth' and the politics of gender and replica in Canada.
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Additional resources for Baby's First Picture: Ultrasound and the Politics of Fetal Subjects
Abdulla et al. 1971; Angles et al. 1990; O'Brien 1983; Pizzarrello et al. 1978; Tarnatal and Hendrickx 1989; Tarnatal, O'Brien, and Hendrickx 1993). In monkeys, there was significant mean birth weight reduction following frequent prenatal ultrasound exposure (Tarnatal and Hendrickx 1989; Tarnatal, O'Brien, and Hendrickx 1993). More recently, the media have reported that Irish researchers have shown that ultrasound imaging can create changes in the cells of mice, specifically, a significant reduction in the rate of cell division and a doubling of cell death (Jimenez 1999: Al).
In order for X-rays 'to become "true" - to [have them] represent health and disease in a knowledgeable and useful way - they needed a context and an intelligible content' (362). Experimenters with ultrasound first had to show that echoes could be produced from within the interior of the living human body. Then they had to find a way to transform those echoes into a meaningful representation of that interior. Significantly, producing ultrasound images has not always been a matter of getting ultrasound machines to produce anatomical pictures.
Patterns of echoes had become the means of creating a new reality - the fetus as a complex, acting, sentient, diagnosable, and treatable individual. In short, ultrasound imaging has been fundamental to the creation of the fetus as a patient: 'The concept that the fetus may be a patient ... is alarmingly modern. The fetus could not be taken seriously as long as he remained a medical recluse in an opaque womb; and it was not until the last half of this century that the prying eye of the ultrasonogram rendered the once opaque womb transparent, stripping the veil of mystery from the dark inner sanctum, and letting the light of scientific observation fall on the shy and secretive fetus' (Harrison 1982: 19).