"Calling it a day" : the decision to end IVF treatment
This thesis focuses on the experiences of women and couples who have undergone in vitro fertilisation (IVF) unsuccessfully and who have subsequently stopped treatment. The thesis is feminist in that it aims to make visible the gendered power relations within which IVF failure is experienced and accounted for. IVF is viewed here not as a neutral artefact, or the violent imposition of male power, but as a form of disciplinary technology, the experience of which is always contradictory and ambivalent. The thesis takes a discourse analytic approach to the interview data. This approach necessarily conceptualises the participants as active, but constrained, agents in the production of meaning in relation to IVF, and the analysis seeks to identify the discursive strategies which they employ in accounting for their experiences. It is argued that those who have stopped treatment occupy an ambiguous liminal space among the dominant discourses of gender, technology and body, and that this constitutes an unusually productive location from which to think about IVF, both in terms of challenging the apparent inevitability of those discourses and creating openings for the production of new knowledges. The analysis is organised around four key themes which emerged from the interview data: the negotiation of discourses of nature and technology; the location of IVF within consumer culture; the distribution of responsibility when treatment fails; and the seeking of resolution around the end of treatment. This thematic structure forms a platform from which to consider not only the specificities of the experience of IVF failure, but which also generates broader insights at the theoretical and conceptual level, focusing particularly on the limitations of oppositional paradigms of transgression / conformity, material / discursive, agency / constraint and theory / practice in the feminist theorising of IVF.