Eira Bjørvik: "Infertility and the Nordic Welfare State, ca 1950-1970”

  • Date: –12:00
  • Location: Engelska parken - Rausing Room
  • Organiser: Department of History of Science and Ideas and the programme "Medicine at the Borders of Life"
  • Contact person: Solveig Jülich, Sven Widmalm
  • Seminarium

The Higher Seminar (NB, time)

Eira Bjørvik, Oslo University: "Infertility and the Nordic Welfare State, ca 1950-1970”

The lecture is in part a chapter presentation of a doctoral thesis currently in the process of finalization. The topic of this thesis is the development of assisted reproduction in 20th century Norway. The presentation explores how the medical and scientific approach to infertility in Norway came to take part in the continuous expansion and enactment of the Nordic welfare state. Thus, the presentation accounts for the development of standard protocols in infertility diagnostics and treatment in Norway in light of the Nordic context of this process. On the face of it, the emergence of standardized protocols for evaluation and treatment of infertility was what is suggested called ‘a process of positive deception’ sympathetic to the idea that the purpose of medicine need not be to cure the ailment at hand. This rationale was in concordance with the expanded notion of ‘health’, and principles of universalism and equal access to public health care services intrinsic to the Nordic model of welfare. Standardization and the implementation of medical infertility protocols contributed to the drawing together of the professional world of Nordic gynecology, and by extension the Nordic region as a political project and particular scientific and medical collective. The development and implementation of standards in infertility medicine moreover, was key to the production of scientific knowledge ultimately seeking to enhance public health and safeguard quality of life. A second central contribution in this chapter presentation is to demonstrate how the emergence and implementation of standards in infertility treatment represented a new biomedical approach to infertility, one in which alignment of the clinic and the laboratory was central to both clinical practice and scientific research. Standardization of infertility protocols was a step in the transformation of infertility and the human infertile body into a ‘research object’ that in turn fed back into the protocols at hand. Ultimately, it is suggested that the ‘scientization’ of infertility vocalized in these practices forwarded infertility as a legitimate politial, medical and social concern.

Eira Bjørvik is a PhD Research Fellow in medical history at the Department of Medical Antrophology and Medical History, Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo.  Bjørvik is currently in the process of finishing her thesis “Assisted Reproduction in 20th century Norway” (working title). She also holds a Master in Cultural Studies from the University of Bergen (2005), a Cand.mag from the University of Oslo (2004), and a D.E.U.G from the University of Strasbourg (2002). Bjørvik was a 2016 finalist in the Norwegian research communication competition Forsker Grand Prix, and a student of the 15th Ischia Summer School on the History of the Life Science in 2017.


The programme "Medicine at the Borders of Life"