A new research project at the Centre

In February Professor Ulrika Dahl at the Centre for Gender Research, together with Professor Rikke Andreassen at Roskilde University will start their new research project entitled ”Scandinavian Border Crossings: Race and Nation in Queer Assisted Reproduction”, funded by Forte.

The project will study how donated gametes and queer parents travel across borders and new forms of kinship through assisted reproduction and online media. The timeliness of the topic is clear; their application was successful also with Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, even if the latter unfortunately had to be turned down this time.

Queering assisted reproduction

In this project, Ulrika Dahl and Rikke Andreassen will do both ethnographic and online research on an understudied aspect of assisted reproduction, namely ideas surrounding the selection of donated gametes and its significance for kinship and family-making. To that end, they aim to interview parents and clinical staff in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, to study sperm banks’ and fertility clinics’ websites and marketing as well as follow online discussion fora devoted to queer family making.

“Previous research has explored questions surrounding open and anonymous donors and their impact on same-sex families. However, we know less about how donor selection is actually made, on what grounds and what it means for kinship”, Ulrika says.

“There are both similarities and significant differences between how these issues are understood in Scandinavian countries and at the same time, much reproductive travel between them. We want to understand what this means for Scandinavianness”, she adds.

At the same time, Matilda Lindgren, with double masters in gender studies and global health, has started working on a PhD project on a related topic placed at the Centre and as a part of the new WoMHeR research school. Matilda’s project ”Matching Gametes: making family and nation in queer assisted reproduction” will be supervised by Ulrika Dahl and MD PhD Evangelia Elenis, who also has extensive knowledge on assisted reproduction with donated gametes from a clinical perspective.

Find out more

Ulrika Dahl, Professor of Gender Studies

Profile picture of Ulrikas smiling into the camera

What are you most looking forward to researching? 

"In my previous ethnographic project, I collected stories about how queers make family and understand relatedness in Sweden and I found that LGBTQ people’s experiences with assisted reproduction in particular varied significantly depending on gendered, racial and classed dimensions of family and parental constellations. In this project, I will continue to explore these questions ethnographically in both Sweden and Norway and focus specifically on how people understand the meaning of “matching gametes.”

I am especially keen to look at how assisted reproduction works from a clinical perspective and from the point of view of medical and clinical staff involved in making babies. How are decisions about donor choices made? Who is involved? What ideas about family and kinship are mobilized by different actors and what new understandings of kinship emerge in and through assisted reproduction?

As I really like to work in collaboration, I am also very much looking forward to working with an excellent team with different areas of expertise, namely Rikke, Matilda and Evangelia as well as with our scientific advisory board and with different stakeholders. To understand the complexities of queer assisted reproduction with donated gametes, we need both interdisciplinary and intersectional perspectives."

Rikke Andreassen, Professor in Media and Culture

What are you most looking forward to researching? 

"My research interest centers around race and whiteness, and how whiteness takes a particular form in a Scandinavian setting. Empirically, I will focus on Denmark, and the Danish sperm banks. I hope to be able to work with designers of the sperm banks’ websites in order to analyse more in-depth what the merging of online and offline means for the understandings of (racialized) gametes.

While most mothers, I have interviewed, chose white donor sperm, they do not verbalise race or whiteness in their donor choices, yet whiteness, and understandings of Scandinavia as white, runs underneath most practices of matching gametes. I see this as a continuation of Scandinavian ’colour blindness’, which is central to whiteness’ persistence as a hegemonic, yet invisible, norm.

I am also interested in looking more into the consequences of buying sperm online: What happens to race, when race becomes a consumer category in online shopping? How does consumption of donor sperm mirror – or challenge – former racialised consumption?"

Profile picture of Rikke standing in front of a window
Photo: Thomas Cato

Matilda Lindgren, PhD student in Gender studies & part of WoMHeR

Profile picture of Matilda with a blue sky in the background

What are you most looking forward to researching? 

"My research will look particularly at new forms of family and kinship-making among lesbian parents and solo mothers, focusing of medically assisted reproduction through sperm donation. What interests me most in this project is what it means to create a family and reproduce without centering on the fertile heterosexual couple. What happens to our understandings of kinship, gender and family when women do not need to date or partner sexually with men in order to give birth and be recognised as mothers by the state?

I hope to be able to analyse both the new reproductive policies of the 2000's and how the practices they allow for (and potentially not allow for) shape our understandings of desired kinship structures and the reproduction of gender, race/whiteness and the nation.”

New research in the middle of a pandemic

What are your thoughts on starting new research in the middle of a pandemic?   

“Of course, the pandemic makes ethnographic observations and live interviews — methods we may take for granted — difficult of not impossible so we may have to rethink research design. At the same time, I think that in a deeper sense, the pandemic also brings new perspectives and offers an opportunity to reassess methods and develop new ones. Ultimately, I think we have to learn to live with these sorts of phenomena rather than wait around for things to get back to “normal” – indeed we may want to reflect on what that “normal” was and for whom.” replies Ulrika.  

She continues: “We have started the project by looking at how the pandemic has affected queer families. It has  impacted access to assisted reproduction and travel across borders, but also pointed very clearly to how people use social media to maintain and create new forms of kinship and in terms of what the pandemic and guidelines for living with it teach us about heteronormative assumptions about both kinship, households and so on.“

Last modified: 2021-02-12