Sacred conceptions: clinical theodicies, uncertain science, and technologies of procreation in India

This article argues that the rapid transfer of assisted conception technologies, such as in vitro fertilization, to India is not restricted merely to the modalities of offering potential biomedical resolution of infertility but includes, more crucially, how clinicians and infertile consumers assimilate the "Western technoscience" of conception. The article draws on a larger multisite ethnographic study of infertility and assisted conception in India's five major cities and is principally based on narratives of clinicians and infertile couples and on clinic-based ethnographic observations. In this article I contend that the success or failure of assisted conception, when situated in the universe of Hindu faith, becomes a powerful critique of the "incompleteness" of the "Western" science of conception. Situating this contention in the broader context of a clinician's faith, I assert that assisted conception—by conjoining seemingly disparate domains of the traditional and the modern, the sacred and the profane, the human and the superhuman, science and religion—produces clinical theodicies that help explain and contain the tentativeness permeating the conception technologies. The article concludes by arguing that this enchanted version of a thoroughly disenchanted worldview of biomedicine is part of a larger cultural process of indigenization of biomedicine in India.


Publication year:
2006
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In: Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry. - Vol. 30(2006), Issue 4, p. 451–465
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