Rethinking Reproduction: Reproductive Technologies Reading Group at Market Gallery

By Catalina Barroso-Luque

How do notions regarding gender, motherhood and reproduction emerge from and within new scientific technologies? How does language re-produce and consume these different bodies?

 Reproductive Technologies is a six-month reading group intended as a prolonged conversation towards a sustained event in July 2018. It is being hosted by Market Gallery, an artist-run space in Glasgow’s East End. The project’s participants include Market Gallery’s programming committee, local residents, Scottish-based artists and researchers, and young mothers. The selected texts respond to reproduction in a variety of ways, and explore the position of bodies in systems of production and reproduction.

Getting started with Paul Preciado’s ‘Baroque Technopatriarchy’ and Antonio Regalado’s ‘A New Way to Reproduce’

The first reading group session sought to construct a platform from which to open up a conversation about the complex relationship between changes in textual bodies; changes in the representation of bodies in literary texts, and technological changes in the biological construction of human bodies. During this session, the group read ‘Baroque Technopatriarchy’ by Paul B. Preciado, and ‘A New Way to Reproduce’ by Antonio Regalado. Preciado’s text served as an introduction to the ways in which discourse, language and biotechnology are caught up with the engineering, production, and policing of different bodies.

‘Baroque Technopatriarchy’ focuses on how, within sexual, social, and cultural forms of reproduction, we confront the most critical dimensions of power. To explain the relationship between power and technologies as they are utilized by political regimes to regulate the collective ways of capturing, distributing and reproducing life, Preciado describes three historical types of power technologies. First, there is the necropatriarchal power regime, under which only the male body is a fully sovereign body. This is followed by modernity’s heterosexual-colonial regime, during which political and (supposedly) anatomical categories of race and sexual difference were developed, regulated and employed in such a way as to easily transplant social constructions, such as the nuclear family, which function as forms of cultural colonization, and support the development of the the labor force of industrialised nation-states. The third regime is the pharmacopornographic regime, defined by the mapping and manipulation of genomes; the invention of the concept of gender; the use of hormones and surgery to alter the body; and the increasing instances of mass destruction. At the brink of possible mass extinction, Preciado asks for an evaluation of the evolution of linguistic codes of social and cultural reproduction as key elements to consider in any investigation of the uses of power. He advocates learning as the cultural analogue of genetic recombination and as a way of collectively mutating within brief time spans and adapting to rapid change.

To contextualize ‘Baroque Technopatriarchy’, the group read ‘A New Way to Reproduce’, which summarizes recent advancements in biotechnology and the conceptual realm in which they operate. One of the recent biological developments Regalodo describes is the advancement made towards the production of artificial gametes and reprogramming of iPS cells into ovules.

Regalado recounts Reijo Pera’s personal interest in utilizing genetically identical stem cells to solve infertility, having herself become infertile as a result of ovarian cancer. However, Regalado fails to probe deeply into the complex possible implications of such developments. These technologies have led to a heated debate regarding the permissibility of editing human embryos to eliminate serious disease, versus the potential co-option of such technology by bio-medical investment firms.

Read alongside ‘Baroque Technopatriarchy’, the group found Regalado’s article highly problematic – especially when he intervenes in the description of scientific research with personal information about particular individuals, with the aim of engaging the reader through empathy. Regalado’s position, language, personal anecdotes, and continuous anthropomorphisation and impartition of subjectivity onto individual bodily components exemplify how traditional (often patriarchal) cultural codes and Western ideals seep into scientific agendas and come to shape research strategies. This is exemplified in Pera’s comment on natural reproduction, with its implicit disregard for non-heterosexual couples: “I might be naïve, but I think the way to have a healthy child is still two people get together and you have wine and dinner.”

The group’s discussion centred particularly on the relationship between gender and reproduction, exploring how new technologies both challenge and discursively produce the natural facts of and assumptions about sex and human reproduction. Here, one participant generously shared her research into the history of gender deconstruction and the disciplining of the female body, as explored through her position and experience as an artist and mother. Another participant recounted how early test trials of the pill in Latin America left many women in her family infertile, prompting her to look into the many adverse effects of hormonal contraception. Case studies in ‘A New Way to Reproduce’, when correlated with the reading group participant’s own histories, raised ethical questions regarding the uses and potential effects of new reproductive technologies, and how power is exercised to produce clashing realities.

Reading Octavia Butler’s ‘Bloodchild’

The fraught relationship between gender, reproduction, agency, and family bonds was further discussed during the group’s second meeting. In this session, the group read ‘Bloodchild’, a short story by Octavia Butler about a man who becomes pregnant with an alien, insect-like race. Set on an unknown planet to which humans have emigrated, the story follows Gan (an adolescent human), his family, and extended ties with Gatoi, a member of the ruling alien group. Playing on themes of surrogacy, infertility and gendered identity, Gatoi’s alien species cannot reproduce on their own, so they implant their eggs into male humans, making them into living incubators – a service mankind must provide in order to be able to inhabit the foreign planet. Being close friends with Gan’s mother, Gatoi has requested that Gan become a carrier for eggs. At first, Gan is content with his role as a carrier. However, after watching another man go into labour, he comes to question his own willingness to serve as a carrier.

Butler’s harrowingly violent description of labour resonated greatly with one participant’s overtly carnal experience of giving birth. Comparing such vivid and simultaneously ambiguous imagery with filmic representations, the group turned to sci-fi Hollywood films that feature themes of pregnancy, parasitic infection and technological replication. The group exchanged views about the placement of the body in technology within films such as Alien and The Matrix, looking into how these forms of mass media reproduce, shape and thrive on shared collective fantasies based on a primal fear of the foetus as parasite. Having read ‘A New Way to Reproduce’ and ‘Baroque Technopatriarchy’, the group addressed the conceptual constraints and assumptions about the maternal body that underlie biological theory and that are shared within both Hollywood imagery and a long philosophical tradition that has relegated the mother to the passive agent.

One of the group’s participants, with a background in film studies, noted that Hollywood’s view of pregnancy as a pathologized phenomenon seems to be tied up with mass fears of contamination on personal and national levels, as evidenced during the AIDs epidemic in the 1980s and by the current growing xenophobic tensions in Europe and North America. The parasite is presented as a foreign presence that infects its host, thus breaking away from the boundaries of both the human individual and the social body, and problematizing notions of bodily unity, group identity and sovereignty.

Here, the group felt that the idea of community becomes quite important, since the first community – the family – is at stake. The traditional nuclear family unit is one structured through the father’s ownership over the children, ensuring that lineage, property and genetic continuity are maintained. In Butler’s story, this is played out through Gatoi’s relationship with Gan’s family, within which she is positioned simultaneously as a visiting ruling official, a friend and a family member. As Gan describes, “T’Gatoi was the Tlic government official in charge of the preserve” (Butler, p.3). “She parcelled us out to the desperate and sold us to the rich and powerful for their political support. Thus we were necessities, status symbols, and an independent people.” (p.5). Complicating things further, Gatoi’s egg had once been implanted into Gan’s late father’s body, making her and Gan’s relationship appear both incestuous and reminiscent of customs where marrying within one’s kin allows for property to be kept within the same social group.

The ambiguity over ‘belonging’ and ‘belonging to’ that is played out in the relationship between Gan’s family and Gatoi places notions of family bonds in a murky in-between space of property, affinity, ‘love’ and social construction. Such a position questions Gan’s degree of agency within his prescribed family role and his choice to become a carrier. The group felt that Gan’s resolution to be impregnated ‘out of love’ comes to mirror socio-cultural models, which engender a naturalized view of romantic relationships whose ultimate shared motivation is that of having children. Such models thwart the self-determining nature of ‘choosing’, making the decision to procreate a of consolidating romantic, family and social bonds.

Positioning kinship, and the bodies involved within it, within the shared scope of property and genetic resemblance triggered a conversation regarding the transposition of free-market economics onto scientific agendas, which regulate and reconfigure the human body. For example, Hardy Kagimoto, CEO of Healios a Japanese biotech company, declared to Regalado: “if eggs could be made from human iPS cells, the supply would potentially be limitless, perhaps leading to what is sometimes called ‘embryo farming’.” Much like the humans living in the preserve in Bloodchild, Kagimoto’s statement depicts the biological body as a territory to be colonized, owned, sold and policed. More alarmingly, rendering biotechnology into a service analogous to chicken farming or personalized online shopping platforms, conflates the body into a disposable material and malleable code homologous to low resolution images and mass-produced consumer products.

Within this dizzying topology of interconnective and conflicting forces, which we are all entangled in, the group then asked: how can we find possible ways of rethinking reproduction as a complex, multilayered and heterogeneous phenomenon, which operates between and across bodies, sexes and genetic material? In his article, Preciado suggests, “Learning, a process that could be considered the cultural analogue of genetic recombination, is our individual and collective way of mutating within brief time spans and adapting to rapid change.” With this aim in mind, Reproductive Technologies will next be looking at the way in which power is exercised in liberal democracies through biopolitical forms of governmentality, reading as a cohort ‘Organs Without Bodies’ by Rosi Braidotti.


Braidotti, Rosi, ‘Organs Without Bodies’ in Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory (Columbia: Columbia University Press, 2011),  pp. 167–188.

Butler, Octavia, ‘Bloodchild’, in Bloodchild And Other Stories (Seven Stories press, 2005), pp. 1–32.

Preciado, Paul B., ‘BAROQUE TECHNOPATRIARCHY: REPRODUCTION’,  Artforum International, 1 Jan. 2018,

Regalado, Antonio, ‘Synthetic Human Reproduction Could Be a Whole New Way to Make Babies’, MIT Technology Review, MIT Technology Review, 29 Jan. 2017,


Catalina Barroso-Luque is a Mexican artist and curator. Her practice revolves around psychology and how distinct technologies of language production suggest different models of subjectivity and initiate new experiences of embodiment. Catalina holds an MFA from the Glasgow School of Art and Fine Arts BA from Central St. Martin’s College of Art & Design. She was the 2016 Graduate Fellow at the Glasgow Sculpture Studios, and the 2013 Artist Residence at Artspace New Haven (CT. USA). Recent artistic projects include: The Persistence of Type, Glasgow International 2018;, Chalton Gallery (London, 2018); Salón ACME (Mexico City, 2018); Dry Rotting Bodies, Civic Room (Glasgow, 2017); A Loving Aneurysm, Glasgow Woman’s Library (Glasgow, 2017); Fictional Matters, Centre for Contemporary Art (Glasgow, UK. 2016). Catalina is currently Programme Assistant for the Edinburgh Art Festival and a member of Market Gallery’s Programming Committee where she leads the Reproductive Technologies reading group.

Welcoming Encounters: What Does a Welcoming Community Look Like to Immigrant and Migrant Mothers?

By María José Yaxfraser
Halifax Harbour, Point Pleasant Park – An image that represents for me the long history of migration to and from Nova Scotia.

Welcoming Encounters is a qualitative doctoral research project that asks immigrant and migrant women what makes Halifax, Nova Scotia, a welcoming community for them as mothers.

Like other provinces in Atlantic Canada, declining fertility rates and emigration from Nova Scotia have been held responsible for the province’s recent economic decline and aging population. Although Canada receives about 250,000 immigrants annually, less than 2% declare Atlantic Canada as their intended destination. Of these, less than half tend to stay and about 90% settle in urban areas. As a result, over the past decade, attempts to attract, retain and integrate new immigrants have gained increased significance in policy and practice at Federal, Provincial and Municipal levels. Changes in infrastructure, programs and initiatives have been instituted by governments, the business sector, communities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to attract, promote and retain immigrants in smaller centres.

A Welcoming Community Initiative (WCI) was one strategy that became particularly appealing to immigration stakeholders across Canada in the early years of the 21st century to promote the retention of newcomers and to facilitate their settlement and economic and social integration.

The concept of a “welcoming community” was identified by the federal government, the Nova Scotia provincial government, academics and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) as key to the successful integration of new immigrants. Its spatial dimension refers to a physical location in which newcomers feel valued and where their needs are served. It refers to a location that has the capacity to promote the inclusion of newcomers. Its discourse dimension refers to a community whose residents undertake actions that facilitate the integration of newcomers by making a collective effort to make individuals feel appreciated and included.

Promoting the need to create welcoming and inclusive communities for new migrants speaks to the recognition that Nova Scotia, predominantly a white and Anglophone community, has been characterized by a resistance to embrace the changes that come with an influx of immigrants from diverse countries around the world. Such resistance is manifested in individual attitudes towards visible and audible differences. Class, ethnicity, race and religion act as boundaries that separate many new migrants from social, economic, political and spiritual resources that might help to secure their wellbeing. Promoting the creation of a welcoming community also speaks of a shift in the level of understanding that processes such as integration, adaptation, and acculturation involve, both amongst the already established communities and the newcomers.

In this study, I explore the lived experiences of immigrant and migrant mothers through a life history approach, asking questions about how immigrant and migrant mothers understand the concept of integration; how immigrant and migrant mothers experience and define the meaning of a welcoming community; how they measure their integration; which institutions are perceived as critical to their integration process; what are the diverse experiences of immigrant and migrant mothers; and how their particular circumstances affect how they define the meaning of a welcoming community. In addition, I am also interested in looking at the ways in which settlement service providers and providers of support programs for immigrant and migrant mothers in the health sector contribute to the creation of a welcoming community for immigrant and migrant women who settle in Halifax.

My interest in exploring the lived experiences of immigrant and migrant mothers raising children in their permanent or temporary place of settlement builds on the fieldwork I conducted for my Master’s thesis with immigrant mothers living in Halifax. Like many women who are inspired to write about their experiences and female researchers who become interested in issues relating to mothering after having children of their own, my urge to explore these experiences emerged when I became a mother. At this time, I was faced with making cultural choices I did not fully anticipate before I had my children. Making cultural choices, for me, was a process that required a constant negotiation of the beliefs, cultural values and the knowledge of raising children I brought with me from Guatemala, the country where I was born, and those that are encouraged in Canada. Going through this constant negotiation made me realize that I had inadvertently become involved in what I termed cross-cultural mothering work, which involves an incredible amount of invisible intellectual labour.

Cross-cultural mothering refers to the complex forms of agency that migrant women deploy to adjust to new environments. It is the process by which migrant mothers re-work their identities and construct and continually negotiate their mothering practices when living within a culture or country other than the one in which they were born and/or grew up. This concept originates from the premise that these women, situated in specific social contexts and within social relations that are shaped by class, ethnicity, race, gender, and other intersections, bring with them a selective and dynamic knowledge of the values and beliefs of child raising held in their culture/country of origin. But due to their migration, they are involved in re-negotiating cultural values, practices, and institutions of their place of settlement, while maintaining ties with their countries of origin and/or the countries from which they migrated.

Working with an expanded concept of reproduction that includes not only childbirth and mothering, but also the work of negotiating heritage, culture and structures of belonging, I locate this research at the intersection of population and economic policies and civil society, and in particular the practices of service providers and NGOs vis-à-vis migrant mothers. Academic discussions of the importance of Nova Scotia becoming a more inclusive and welcoming province predominantly focus on economic integration. The social and cultural integration of immigrant families and individuals has largely been excluded from these conversations. My research study seeks to contribute to the ongoing academic discussions of integration, adaptation and acculturation in Canada, and in Nova Scotia specifically. It seeks to contribute to the study of both the local and the global governance of migration and to our understanding of what a welcoming community looks like for immigrant and migrant mothers and their families.


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Bahbhani, K. (2008). “The changing face of Kelowna: Best practices for creating a welcoming community”. The Intercultural Society of the Central Okanagan.

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Clews, Rosemary (2004). “Exploring and Overcoming Barriers to Immigration in New Brunswick”. Presented at Rendez-vous: Immigration 2004 Conference. Saint Andrews, NB.

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De Souza, Ruth (2004). “Motherhood, migration and methodology: Giving voice to the “Other”. The Qualitative Report. 9 (3):463-482.

Dobrowolsky and Howard Ramos (2014) in CCPA. Expanding the Vision: Why Nova Scotia Should Look Beyond Econocentric Immigration Policy. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives: Nova Scotia.

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Yax-Fraser, Maria Jose (2011). “Mothering Across Cultures: Immigrant women’s Experiences in Halifax”. In Immigrant Women in Atlantic Canada: Feminist Perspectives, edited by Evangelia Tastsoglou and Peruvemba S. Jaya, 297-324 Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press/Women’s Press.

María José is a scholarly and community research practitioner and community leader. She has worked in migration and settlement services for 25 years. She is a PhD candidate in the department of Social Anthropology at York University. Her academic interest is in the experiences of immigrant and migrant women and mothers. She combines her academic interest with her community volunteer work, including her volunteer work with the Immigrant Migrant Women’s Association of Halifax (IMWAH). She also has a personal interest in human rights, the eradication of gender and family violence, gender and development, and the rights of indigenous people in the Americas. She is a member of the Voice of Women for Peace and a member of the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network.

Dislocated Maternal Bodies: Dance Movement Psychotherapy with Refugee Mothers

By Rosalind Howell
 When I Googled ‘refugee mothers’ the other week, this came up on the first page: “Refugee Mothers”. Try as it might, Google could not find any resource that contained both words – the refugee mother somehow could not be located. She was missing.

In a weekly Dance Movement Psychotherapy group for refugee mothers and their preschool children that I facilitate, a participant tells me that at a party in her accommodation recently, someone was taking photographs. The next day, pictures of her appeared, printed out, and pinned up along the street with the word ‘Missing’ emblazoned across them: her image had been turned into a missing persons poster. But, as the woman said to me, genuinely bewildered: “I wasn’t missing?!”

Refugees lose many significant things when they leave their home, including possessions, loved ones, even honor and prestige. All that might remain after their flight from danger is their body and mind, but trauma can make even these feel somehow unreachable or dislocated. As another woman noted in the group: “It’s just my body that is tired, not me”. This feeling of being separate from one’s body may remain even when the refugee is in “in safety”, and it can become a normal way of experiencing the self.

Rediscovering one’s lost body might involve what Psychotherapist Susie Orbach has called ‘daring to be comfortable’ – that is, turning our attention inwards and using this as a place from which to meet the world, rather than colluding with a view of our body based on an objectifying gaze. But trying to ‘get comfortable’ in this way is not easy. In this group, the bodies of the refugee women are often galvanised in tension, ready to fight or flee, or they are quick to collapse, like  formless pools without bone or muscle. When the women choose to perch on a wobbly pile of chairs, feet far from the ground, they seem to be conflating the notion of being comfortable with being ‘safe’ and ‘separate.’  Perhaps it feels too dangerous to lie on the floor, unless curled up in a foetal position. How then to make small physical adjustments that might help tolerate the challenges of the present moment, however uncertain, and from there to move into the future?

As another woman says to me of some casual racism she experienced earlier that day: “I have to let it slide over me, I can’t let it touch me otherwise it will hold me back.” As she spoke, she moved her hand quickly over her body, so that I could imagine something sliding off a surface that nothing could stick to or penetrate. She then leapt up and moved quickly from the spot, engaging in a practical task. This idea of a border that aims, like skin,  to keep out the unwanted is a familiar one to us all these days, whether we are a refugee or host country.

Many psychotherapy interventions for mothers and their infants are based on improving the attachment relationship. But as some have noted, Bowlby’s attachment theory has been in part co-opted by an individualistic, mother-blaming and very Western-centric culture, or misunderstood as the need for a mother to be literally stuck to her baby at all times. Likewise, the use of Winnicott’s concept of ‘primary maternal preoccupation’ often leaves out the crucial point that a mother needs to be well resourced to emotionally care for a baby, and it is the wider environment’s responsibility to ensure that. In the case of refugee mothers, resources are scant, and trauma has been immense.  Refugee women are among those most vulnerable to gender-based violence. They are likely to have experienced rape, domestic violence, FGM, trafficking, or some combination of all of these. It is thus dangerous to foist more blame onto her for the trauma she has experienced. It makes her responsible for the impact of war, geopolitics and  patriarchal violence on subsequent generations, when these forms of violence have been literally acted out on her body.

So how does the political manifest in the physical body? What does it look like, what are its postures, its movements and its bodily felt sensations as it intertwines with personal history? How does the political animate the body of a refugee that has travelled perhaps thousands of miles, but now has no clear way forward and no path back?  And how ‘comfortable’ can these mothers be in their bodies, in a kind of limbo with an uncertain future, but with a child who must be somehow delivered to the future? For the refugee mother, what can her next move be?

A version of this piece was read at the conference Oxytocin, birthing the world, The Royal College of Art, in June 2017.

Rosalind Howell is a Dance Movement Psychotherapist, writer and editor. She has three children.