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School of Social Sciences

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BAEcon Economics
Learn how the social sciences can help you to understand today's world.

BAEcon Economics

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Reproduction & New Medical Technologies

Unit code SOCY30072
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Sociology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The unit will provide students with an introduction to sociology of human reproduction and medicine.  It will explore how human reproduction is not only about biological and bodily processes but how it is also shaped through social and cultural change. Specifically, it examines the impact of new and developing medical technologies and how they shape understandings and practices linked to contraception, conception, pregnancy and childbirth. The unit will engage with key developments and controversies in this field such as genetic screening; egg, sperm and embryo donation; in-vitro fertilisation and cloning. It will consider how the media in the past and present report on these developments and the politics and governance of reproductive technologies, e.g. through exploring the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008.


This course will introduce students to sociological approaches to reproduction and new medical technologies. It will do so by exploring the relationship between society, culture, gender, the body, medicine and technology in the context of conception and childbirth. Specifically, it will examine the development of a range of medical reprod­uctive technologies and how they shape understandings and practices linked to contraception, pregnancy, conception, and childbirth. It will also look at how reproduction is changing as a consequence of the availability of such reproductive technologies. The unit will engage with key developments and controversies in the field such as prenatal genetic testing and embryo screening; visualisations of the embryo; in vitro fertilisation; egg, sperm and embryo donation; cross border reproductive care and surrogacy. It will consider how the media in the past and present report on these developments and the politics and governance of reproductive technologies, e.g. through exploring regulation in the UK and internationally, as well as what happens when ‘new’ families (formed through surrogacy for example) end up in court.  

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit successful students will:

  • Apply their knowledge of sociological theory of reproduction, including feminist theory and theory developed in the context of science and technology studies and kinship studies, to enable them to recognise the nature of sociological questions in this field.
  • Appreciate, understand and interpret the complexity of the role of reproduction in society, including conducting sociological analysis of diverse aspects of reproduction and medical technologies, e.g. prenatal genetic testing, contraception and assisted conception.
  • Reason critically about the development of new reproductive technologies and analyse how they impact on reproductive processes. This for example through the study of foetus visualisation and in vitro fertilisation.
  • Critically assess the interplay between medical technologies and reproductive politics, and evaluate the role of regulation and governmental policy in such areas
  • Develop a coherent analysis of a substantive topic, e.g. surrogacy.
  • Develop skills in communication and presentation and engage constructively and effectively with others through workshop participation and especially group work based presentations
  • Interpret and critically evaluate evidence about society and reproduction using a variety of sources

Teaching and learning methods

Weekly 1 x 3 hour workshop or 1 x 2 hour lecture and 1 x 1 hour TA-led tutorial depending on student numbers. The course will utilise Blackboard 9 in delivering the module’s course content, core readings, lecture slides, supplementary material including films, and communication.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 35%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%
Oral assessment/presentation 15%

Feedback methods

All sociology courses include both formative feedback – which lets you know how you’re getting on and what you could do to improve – and summative feedback – which gives you a mark for your assessed work. This course uses the following mechanisms for feedback:

  • Informal verbal feedback will be given during lectures and tutorials for individual and group work. (You’ll need to contribute regularly to group discussions to make the best use of this.)
  • You will be given formative feedback as a group on your group presentation via the lecturer after class that day
  • Written formative feedback will be given on your non-assessed assignment and made available via Grademark on Blackboard.
  • Written formative and summative feedback will be given on your assessed coursework, available via your exam script and via Grademark on Blackboard.
  • Exam results are published only as a grade. If you wish to discuss your exam performance with your lecturer please book an office hour slot by email and let your lecturer know in advance that this is what you want to do.

Additional Office Hours will be provided to discuss planning for coursework assessments. See p.2 above for times.

Feedback Half Day will be provided to allow in-depth discussion of feedback on your coursework assessments. A sign-up sheet will be circulated during lectures for you to allocate yourself to a slot. See p. 2 above for times.

Recommended reading

Clarke, A. E. (1998) Disciplining Reproduction: Modernity, American Life Sciences and “the Problems of Sex”. London: University of California Press.

Edwards, J. (2000) Born and Bred: Idioms of Kinship and New Reproductive Technologies in England. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thompson, C. (2005) Making Parents. The Ontological Choreography of Reproductive Technologies. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT.

Nordqvist, P. and Smart, C. (2014) Relative Strangers: Family Life, Genes and Donor Conception. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Inhorn, M. and van Balen, Frank (2002) Infertility around the Globe: New Thinking on Childlessness, Gender and Reproductive Technologies. London: University of California Press

Teman, E. (2010) Birthing the Mother: The Surrogate Body and the Pregnant Self. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Rapp, R. (1999) Testing Women, Testing the Foetus: The Social Impact of Amniocentesis in America. New York: Routledge

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 30
Independent study hours
Independent study 168

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Petra Nordqvist Unit coordinator

Additional notes

2015/16 timetable

Thursday 13:00 - 16:00

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