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The Ultrasonic Picture Show and the Politics of Threatened Life

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Abstract

This article examines a local version of medical public discourse about fetal images produced through ultrasonography in Israel, where this technology has gained huge popularity. Nevertheless, I argue, ultrasound in Israel has not become engaged in the discursive production of “fetal subjects” central to the Euro-American life politics. Fetal images in Israel have become entangled in a “politics of threatened life”: where “life” stands typically for the pregnant woman and “threat” for the fetus, while the prospect of a reproductive misfortune is the fabric through which pregnancies, regardless of their medical categorization as “low risk” or “high risk,” are navigated and negotiated by doctors and women. The same processes of separation generated by ultrasonography forge different imagined relations between woman and fetus. This article opts to go beyond analyzing the cultural paradigms of thinking and the sociopolitical circumstances at play, to convey a sense of how notions of threatened life are produced.

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