McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
autoethnography, discourse analysis, Foucault, postmodern, psychology, sonogram
Pregnancy ultrasound has gained popularity in recent decades. In the U.S. and other industrialized countries, it is an expected part of the medical monitoring that accompanies pregnancy. Most scientific, medical and popular opinions of pregnancy ultrasound consider it to be unequivocally beneficial. However, following feminist researchers who note the potential for the ultrasound to act as a form of surveillance, medicalize the body of the woman while simultaneously removing it from the picture, and sediment the reality of pregnancy, I took as my starting point the idea that it is important that we investigate technologies that are taken for granted as normal because of the potential for such technologies to contain ideological frameworks that are masked by beliefs about neutrality.
I completed semi-structured interviews with three pregnant women. The interviews were transcribed using a combination of notation systems drawn from conversation analysis and discourse analysis. I used a modified Foucauldian discourse analytic approach to analyze the interview narratives. Starting with a critique of the ways in which the subject category 'woman' has been constructed within philosophical, medical, and psychoanalytic discourse, I completed a series of steps including free associating to the texts, itemizing the nouns, identifying the subjects and subject categories, and identifying rights and responsibilities of central subjects. This led to an identification of six dominant discourses within which experiences of ultrasound and subjectivity can be conceptualized: scientific, maternal, biological, familial, gendered, and visual. Throughout the dissertation, I incorporated a reflexive autoethnographic component in order to identify and illustrate the ways in which normative discourses are written on the body, both in privilege and in marginalization.
The analysis paved the way for two parallel examinations concerning how ultrasound is positioned as a normative technology and how certain subjectivities are positioned as normative within the context of the dominant discourses that I identified, allowing for a closer examination of how it is that ideological frameworks are inscribed upon the bodies of those who participate. That is, while a number of feminist projects have focused on the ways in which women's bodies are objectified by medical procedures, my emphasis concerns the ways in which the body of the woman, the body of the fetus, and others, are subjectified by linguistic utterances that close off possibilities of doing and of being.
Riddle, B. (2006). Normative practices and normative identities: A critical feminist investigation of pregnancy ultrasound (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/1104