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The Violence of the Natural

MERVE EMRE OFFERS a sweeping account of over a century of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), from a Progressive Era “artificial womb” to the unevenly distributed dramas and devastations of in vitro fertilization (IVF) today. The near-complete absence of race and racism from the essay, however, obscures both the context and the core of the case that Emre is trying to make.

This is a shame, because there is much here to admire. Particularly potent and timely is Emre’s appreciation of Shulamith Firestone’s 1970 call in The Dialectic of Sex for mechanized gestation as fundamental to the abolition of gender hierarchy. Firestone’s vision stands as a metric of current failures, highlighting the entrenchment of heteropatriarchy, cis-normativity, and class stratification in current uses of ARTs, even as these technologies approach and exceed our forebears’ science-fictional imaginings.

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