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Nameless Relations: Anonymity, Melanesia and Reproductive Gift Exchange between British Ova Donors and Recipients

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Volume 7

Fertility, Reproduction and Sexuality: Social and Cultural Perspectives

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Nameless Relations

Anonymity, Melanesia and Reproductive Gift Exchange between British Ova Donors and Recipients

Monica Konrad

304 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-57181-647-4 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (May 2005)

ISBN  978-1-84545-040-3 $34.95/£27.95 Pb Published (May 2005)

Hb Pb   Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“This work makes a significant contribution to the field of reproductive technology studies given its in-depth ethnographic research …a work of ethnographic and analytical excellence.”  ·  Reviews in Anthropology

“This book is thorough..a comprehensive account of the complicated and at time ambivalent voices of women involved in donating and receiving ova. It will be useful for advanced undergraduate and graduate-level classes.”  ·  Medical Anthropology Quarterly

“…an important contribution for anthropologists and those in [many] other disciplines…Konrad has managed to critically explicate the complex and intimate relationship that binds anonymous donor with anonymous recipient.”  ·  American Anthropologist

“The comparative use of Melanesian ethnography and anthropological theorizing creates a challenging analytical undertaking in this [thought-provoking] study. This comparison draws on a well of different sources, starting with Malinowski and Mauss and ending up with Strathern.”  ·  Anthropological Quarterly

“Konrad has produced an exceptionally interesting and totallyoriginal book ... a major contribution to social theory.”  ·  Marilyn Strathern, Cambridge University


Based on the author's fieldwork at assisted conception clinics in England in the mid-1990s, this is the first ethnographic study of the new procreative practices of anonymous ova and embryo donation. Giving voice to both groups of women participating in the demanding donation experience – the donors on the one side and the ever-hopeful IVF recipients on the other – Konrad shows how one dimension of the new reproductive technologies involves an unfamiliar relatedness between nameless and untraceable procreative strangers. Offsetting informants’ local narratives against traditional Western folk models of the ‘sexed’ reproductive body, the book challenges some of the basic assumptions underlying conventional biomedical discourse of altruistic donation that clinicians and others promote as “gifts of life.” It brings together a wide variety of literatures from social anthropology, social theory, cultural studies of science and technology, and feminist bioethics to discuss the relationship between recent developments in biotechnology and changing conceptions of personal origins, genealogy, kinship, biological ownership and notions of bodily integrity.

Monica Konrad is a Bye-Fellow of Girton College and Director of the PLACEB-O Research Orbital at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge.

Subject: Medical Anthropology Gender Studies and Sexuality
Area: Asia-Pacific


List of Figures


Chapter 1. What is Concealed Inside an Anonymously Donated Gamete?

  • Incoexistence
  • Inside Out
  • ART, Exteriorisation and Forms of Facelessness
  • Future Feminisms
  • ‘Cosmic Egg’ Revisited
  • Ova Donors and Recipients
  • Finding Method in the Oblique 
  • Implicit Links and Multiple Audiences

Chapter 2. Anonymity and the Way of Juxtaposition

  • Anonymity/taboo
  • Anonymity/openness
  • Anonymity/reciprocity
  • Anonymity/partibility
  • Anonymity/transilience


Chapter 3. Donors I

  • Come Superovulate!
  • Free Gift Emerging
  • ‘Not a Hardship at All’
  • Testimonies of Assistance
  • Intimately Impersonal
  • And Free Gift Receding
  • Becoming Special
  • Prestige and ‘Fame’
  • ‘It’s Something I Must Do!’
  • Summary Link

Chapter 4. Donors II

  • Categories of De-identification and Degrees of Anonymisation
  • Strong, Indeterminate and Weak Anonymity
  • Knowledge Outcomes and the Form of the Return Gift
  • Neither Inalienable nor Forgettable
  • Remote Parenting?
  • Negotiated Maternity and the Ambiguous Progenetrix

Chapter 5. Donors III

  • Donating Agency, Extension and Intersubjective Spacetime
  • Reproducibility and Relations of Non-relations
  • Odelle: Genes by Proxy
  • Policy Link - Penny: Relations as Ripple Effects 
  • Policy Link - Rita: Donating Adoption
  • Policy Link - Meena: Receiving Pardon
  • Summary Link
  • Dispossession, Effraction and Nontraceability
  • What Goes Round Comes round
  • What Goes around Comes around (Again)

Chapter 6. Recipients I

  • Gift Elasticity and the Infertility Industry
  • Egg-sharing, Egg-giving and Egg Donation
  • Anonymity, Kinship Distance and ‘Poison’ in the Gift
  • ‘Like with Like’ and the Equivalence of Matching
  • Degrees of Information and Informational Gaps
  • The Idea of ‘Donor-release’
  • Mismatching
  • ‘You See What You Want to See’
  • Blood Food Lines
  • Summary Link

Chapter 7. Recipients II

  • Accountability and Blood Manipulations
  • Revealing-while-keeping the Secret (Ella’s Effacement)
  • Whatever Happened to You?
  • Money Manipulations and Ova Pathways
  • Taming Contingency (I): Ova Pathways and Directing Flow
  • Taming Contingency (II): Ranking between Recipients
  • How Ova and Embryo Pathways Make Half-siblings
  • Policy Link
  • Summary Link

Chapter 8. Recipients III

  • Hyper-kinship within a Remaindered World
  • Eliciting Hyperembryo
  • Re-donation, Refusal and ‘Disowning Decisions’
  • Sacrificial Keeping-while-giving and Donation to Research
  • Obviating a Compounded Life
  • Liquidating the Third Party
  • Re-donation as Continuous Gifting
  • Summary Link


Chapter 9. Unconcealing Extensional Transilience

  • Hyper-embryo into Infinite Partibility and the Sourcing of Embryonic Stem Cells
  • Policy Link
  • Transilient Kinship and Embryo Donor-conceived Children
  • Summary Link

Chapter 10. Unconcealing Regenerative Transilience

  • Spotlight on the Final Frontier
  • Envisioning the Problem of Ovarian Tissue and the Life-giving Death
  • Reconstituted Persons and the Extensional Imaginary
  • How it is Imagined Breath Circulates between Persons
  • How it is Imagined the Unborn Sibling Blood-donor Child Will Make New Life
  • Discussion

Chapter 11. Conclusion: Relations of Non-relations

Appendix I: Donor Biographical Profiles
Appendix II: Recipient Biographical Profiles
Appendix III: Treatment Protocol


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