“In her erudite analysis of everything that is commonsensical—and not—about 'having an own child', Karin Lesnik-Oberstein has completed a long-overdue task with the scope and rigour it deserves. On Having an Own Child is a contribution to the cultural analysis of reproduction and the feminist debate about reproductive technology that consistently foregrounds the fundamental questions of language, kinship, culture and identity at their core. In a confrontational analysis that ranges from psychoanalysis to biopolitics, Lesnik-Oberstein makes a major contribution to contemporary cultural theory in a path-breaking work that deserves to be read by the widest possible audience.”
-- Sarah Franklin, Professor of Social Studies of Biomedicine, London School of Economics
Karin Lesnik-Oberstein explores the debates and decisions around the uses of reproductive technologies, specifically in relation to childhood and the having of children.
Even books ostensibly devoted to the topic of why people want children and the reasons for using reproductive technologies tend to start with the assumption that this is either simply a biological drive to reproduce, or a socially instilled desire. This book uses psychoanalysis not to provide an answer in its own right, but as an analytic tool to probe more deeply the problems of these assumptions. In doing so, Lesnik-Oberstein addresses wider issues to do with thinking around, and articulating ideas about, nature, culture, history, society, the family, the individual, and the child. Instead of largely taking for granted the idea that of course people want to have children, and of course they want them to be their "own”, and, of course, they want these children because everyone knows what children are, this book will not take these ideas for granted, but argue instead that the child and the desire for the child constitute in particular and specific ways “a value, a theme of expression, an occasion of emotion”. Given that it is the idea of an “own” child that underpins and justifies the whole use of reproductive technologies, this book is a crucial and wholly original intervention in this complex and highly topical area.
Karín Lesnik-Oberstein focuses her inter- and multi- disciplinary research on childhood as a cultural and historical construction. Her first monograph (Clarendon Press, 1994) addressed this issue through the lens of children’s literature studies. Subsequent work analyzes childhood as an identity in fields ranging from psychology, anthropology, sociology, and history, to law and medicine. Her work on childhood is primarily based on approaches drawn from Freudian psychoanalytic thinking, through the particular use made of psychoanalysis in turn by thinkers such as Professor Jacqueline Rose and Erica Burman in literature and psychology respectively. Her edited volumes have drawn together fields in innovative ways and demonstrated how this kind of analysis of identity can illuminate thinking across a range of disciplines. That her approach is not limited to childhood as such, but extends to any thinking about identity and meaning is demonstrated also by her latest edited book on productions of gender and sexuality, The Last Taboo: Women and Body Hair (Manchester University Press, 2007).
Acknowledgements; About the Author; Introduction; 1) The Wanting of a Baby: Nature, History, Culture, and Society; 2) The Wanting of a Baby: Desire, Despair, Hope, and Regret; 3) The Child That Is Wanted: Perfection and Commodification; 4) The Child That Is Wanted: Kinship and the Body of Evidence; 5) The Child That is Wanted: Reading Race and the Global Child; 6) Conclusion: Coming to Grief in Theory; References; Index.