Introduction: Agency and Invisibility in Constructions of Infertility
This section introduction uses Hilary Mantel’s Giving Up the Ghost (2010), a powerful memoir detailing the author’s undiagnosed endometriosis and subsequent hysterectomy, to open up a discussion of the importance of power and agency in understandings of infertility in the modern era. In histories of infertility, the issues of agency and invisibility are deeply entwined. The power to act depends in part on social recognition of a ‘problem’, and the choices of those whose voices are not heard, or, even worse, are deliberately silenced, are narrowed – sometimes to the point of non-existence. The chapters in this section show how in past societies, as in the contemporary world, disparities of power marked and determined the experience of infertility. They demonstrate that while ideological constructions of gender, race and class have conditioned popular, legal, and medical approaches to infertility, stigmatized and neglected groups have managed to fight back and to challenge these constructions in unexpected ways.