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Morgan Centre for Research into Everyday Lives

Relative strangers: An end of project interdisciplinary conference

Families and donor conception

  • Date: Friday, 22 March 2013
  • Location: The University of Manchester


Genetic relatedness plays an important role in the cultural fabric of family life. It shapes the way that we think about what it means to be related to people, our assumptions about conception, reproduction and having children, and is fundamental to questions about origin, personal identity and 'who we are'.

The use of egg, sperm and embryo donation in the context of assisted reproduction poses questions to these deep-seated cultural assumptions. Increasingly, parents of donor-conceived children are encouraged to share information about children's genetic origins; an 'ethics of disclosure' now shapes this practice.

Project conclusion

This conference marked the end of the ESRC funded project 'Relative Strangers: Negotiating non-genetic kinship in the context of assisted conception' in which Carol Smart and Petra Nordqvist explored how donor conception and decisions about disclosure are managed within, and impact on, the lives and relationships of families.

They presented original data from interviews with heterosexual and same-sex parents as well as grandparents of donor-conceived children. In addition, key speakers from the disciplines of Anthropology and Bio-ethics contributed with reflections on contemporary issues of donor conception and assisted reproduction.

In this interdisciplinary day conference, we reflected on:

  • the impact of new medical technologies on family life
  • cutting edge research in the field of kinship, relatedness, genetic identity and the ethics of knowing 'who we are'.

Programme highlights

  • Assisting kinship through assisted conception - Prof Jeanette Edwards (Anthropology, The University of Manchester)
  • Real parent, dubious progenitors and who we really are! - Prof John Harris (Lord Alliance Professor of Bioethics, Institute of Science, Ethics and Innovation, The University of Manchester)
  • Personal life and genetic relatedness - Prof Carol Smart (Morgan Centre, The University of Manchester)
  • 'Opening up': Donation, information and family relationalities - Dr Petra Nordqvist (Morgan Centre, The University of Manchester)