Science, society and the sea of fertility: new reproductive technologies in Japanese popular culture



Publication Details

Mackie, V. (2014). Science, society and the sea of fertility: new reproductive technologies in Japanese popular culture. Japan Forum, 26 (4), 441-461.


Since the late twentieth century, assisted reproductive technologies have brought new challenges to our understanding of the family and gender relations. There are ever-widening gaps between medical practice, legal regulation and everyday understandings and practices. Some recent popular cultural texts in Japan have explored the issues raised by non-commercial surrogate motherhood. The background to these texts is a series of controversies concerning surrogacy and the use of assisted reproductive technologies and wider societal anxieties about family, reproduction and population management. In this article, I will focus on two novels by a medical practitioner and popular novelist who writes under the pseudonym Kaido Takeru - Gene Waltz (Kaido 2008) and Madonna Verde (Kaido 2010) - and the associated film (Otani 2011) and television series (NHK 2011). The fact that it was the national broadcaster Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK) that dramatised Madonna Verde suggests that the discussion of these issues was thought to have wide social and cultural resonance. I will place these texts in their social and cultural context with reference to medical, legal and popular discourses on new reproductive technologies in contemporary Japan. These new reproductive technologies have the potential to force a rethinking of masculinity, femininity, parenthood, family and gender relations. The popular texts also, however, draw on pre-existing ways of thinking about masculinity, femininity, marriage, reproduction and the relationships among science, 'nature' and society.

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