Risa Cromer

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

Purdue U.

Grant number

Gr. 9877

Approve Date

October 9, 2019

Project Title

Cromer, Risa (Purdue U.) "Ex Utero: Frozen Embryo Politics in the United States"

The proposed book project, Ex Utero: Frozen Embryo Politics in the United States, examines the afterlives of human embryos left over from in vitro fertilization procedures, over a million of which have accumulated in fertility clinic freezers across the United States. At the turn of the twenty-first century, the fates of these reproductive remainders became the subject of public debate. In 1998, biologists in a University of Wisconsin lab established the first human embryonic stem cell line from a donated leftover embryo. That same year, the first child was born through the world’s first “embryo adoption” program—a Christian effort to rescue embryos from “frozen orphanages” by facilitating their chances to be born. These coinciding events raised social, political, ethical, and practical questions about what should happen with the accumulating embryos widely deemed as unwanted but un-wastable. Based on twenty-seven months of ethnographic research within programs that make and manage frozen embryos, this book offers an inside look at American answers to where frozen embryos belong. I argue that the figure of the ex utero embryo provides a novel focal point for revealing how racial capitalism, private property regimes, and white Christian nationalism co-operate within twenty-first century reproductive politics in the United States. This book will make significant contributions to medical anthropology, science and technology studies, and feminist social science.