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Omöjliga familjen: Ideologi och fantasi i svensk reproduktionspolitik
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science.
2015 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
The Impossible Family : Ideology and Fantasy in the Making of Swedish Reproduction Policy (English)
Abstract [en]

The relationship between the state and the people is a central theme in political theory. Discussions in this field have often centered on how a people can come to constitute a state. Less attention, however, has been directed toward the state’s role in constituting and recreating its people. This book examines the Swedish state’s role in forming the people by regulating the use of reproductive techniques: insemination, in vitro fertilization (IVF), and donations of sperm and eggs.

The study focuses on how the issue of assisted reproduction was handled and problematized in Swedish policymaking between 1981 and 2005. What problem representations dominated the political debates and decision-making processes surrounding assisted reproduction? How was conflict expressed within the field of reproductive politics (i.e., what aspects caused conflict or political disagreement)? How did collective fantasies play into the political treatment of reproductive technologies? Using historical government and Riksdag material, four major policy debates have been analyzed, from the first legal regulation of assisted reproduction in Sweden in the 1980s up until the inclusion of lesbian couples as beneficiaries of gamete donation.

Theoretically, the study is inspired by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s political discourse theory, Lacanian psychoanalysis, and the “logics approach” developed by Jason Glynos and David Howarth. This combination of perspectives allows for a dual focus on both the form of political articulations and their affective force. Thus, the analysis tries to capture what was taken for granted within the discourse on reproduction (social logics), what arose as points of political conflict or contention (political logics), as well as the affective underpinnings of these social constructions and struggles (fantasmatic logics).

The main result of the study is that even though the period saw a quite revolutionary development of new reproductive technologies, the reproduction policies under study took on much more moderate and hesitant character. Throughout the analyzed period there was a more or less consensual view that new reproductive technologies should only be allowed if they did not go against the “child’s best interest.” At the same time, there was significant political conflict over what constituted this interest. Moreover, the reforms that were made never fully embraced the radical implications of the new technologies. Rather, they clung on to previously established patterns of what a “real” family looked like. Thus, every move to allow a new technology or include another category of people as legitimate users of that technology was contingent upon the articulation of a discursive equivalence with previously naturalized methods of reproduction, ultimately taking the heterosexual, nuclear family as an implicit model. Finally, I argue that the production of “sense” in this terrain of radical undecidability was dependent on the mobilization of a series of collective fantasies about “natural life processes,” “nature’s imperfections,” “a humanist view of mankind,” “the stable, original nuclear family”, and so on. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2015. , 292 p.
Stockholm studies in politics, ISSN 0346-6620 ; 166
Keyword [en]
assisted reproduction, human reproduction, logics approach, new reproductive techniques, political discourse theory, psychoanalysis, Swedish politics, queer theory, reproduction policy
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
Research subject
Political Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-122219ISBN: 978-91-7649-231-4OAI: diva2:865552
Public defence
2015-12-04, William-Olssonsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 10:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2015-11-12 Created: 2015-10-28 Last updated: 2015-10-30Bibliographically approved

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Tinnerholm Ljungberg, Helena
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