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Kristen Loveland, Harvard University, History

Thinking the Future Human: Debates on the Ethics of Diagnostic Reproductive Technologies in Germany, 1946 – 2001

The postwar regulation of new reproductive technologies has been a point of dispute throughout Europe and the United States, but in Germany the debate, particularly over prenatal diagnosis and preimplantation genetic diagnosis, has resonated both with Germany’s fascist past and its liberal present. Many scholars have focused on how greater fetal visualization and diagnosis have resulted in the emergence of the fetus as a moral and legal subject. However disputes concerning the ethics and regulation of diagnostic reproductive technologies in the late twentieth century reveal that in talking about the fetus, feminists, disability rights activists, bioethicists, theologians, and legal scholars, were often also reflecting on German national identity and human biotechnological intervention in a world characterized by supranational political and neoliberal economic regimes. My dissertation explores how the postwar German management of its eugenic past influenced understandings of reproductive control and disability articulated through these debates. It seeks to further understand the relationship between neoliberalism and identity politics as well as the role of the European market in postwar Germany. Debates in which feminist and disability rights activists actively rejected consumer choice for reproductive technologies complicate our understanding of the relationship between neoliberalism and identity politics. Many who invoked Germany’s eugenic past to argue for the regulation of new reproductive technologies were motivated to do so in part due to the emergence of liberal regulatory regimes in nearby countries and anxiety over the influence of a liberalizing EU market economy. Finally, my project takes up the question of postwar secularism and technological modernity. The influence of Catholic and Protestant theologians in official, managerial bioethical debates suggests that the regulation of reproductive technologies is an important site for exploring the way in which religious norms critically informed European laws in the late twentieth century, while the debates as a whole reveal complex anxieties about the role of humans in transforming their own nature.