Academy Researcher Fellow, Gender Studies, Sociology & STS
Tampere University & University of Helsinki

Kone Foundation project

Technology, Ethics and Reproduction: Controversy in the Era of Normalisation (ReproEthics)

The ReproEthics project is an interdisciplinary and international project funded by the Kone Foundation (2019-2022). It takes as its focus the ethics of reproductive technologies: Ethical evaluation essential to the acceptance, regulation, dissemination, participation in, and marketisation of reproductive technologies.  Ethical deliberation is done by all kinds of actors in the arena of reproductive technologies, such as policy makers, bioethicists, medical professionals, market players, patients, and donors of reproductive tissue and of reproductive labour. The project brings together methods, perspectives, and scholars from social science and the academic field of bioethics in order to examine ethics. It explores a wide variety of cases of technological practice that have, or may in the future, become normalised as uncontroversial in some (delimited) cultural contexts.

The cases chosen form five subproject the project is divided into. The focus of subproject I is 1) ethnic minorities suffering from fertility disruptions. Subproject II examines 2) trans and intersex treatments, such as the so-called gender reassignment and sex affirmation. Subproject III studies 3) womb related technologies (uterine transplants, artificial wombs and ectogenesis) and subproject IV studies 4) the use of reproductive health data resources. Finally, subproject V explores 5) the practices of reproductive tissue industry, offering gametes and wombs for transplantation or surrogacy.

The project includes four members including the PI (see below) and three affiliate members: PhD student Ronja Tammi, PhD student Kaisa Naskali and Master’s student Joren Buyck.

The outputs of the project can be found here.

People

Muok 1

Dr. Mwenza Blell

Senior researcher

I’m a biosocial medical anthropologist and I’m interested in gender, sex, reproduction, and technology. I like to work in collaboration and in innovative ways. I’m currently working on research projects which address to the ways that health-related data are being talked about, collected, shared, used, marketed, and managed in new ways. This includes data from electronic health and social care records, from wearable technologies, mobile phones, social media, and genomic and other omic data. Data and data-driven technologies are topics with increasingly obvious contemporary political relevance. As an ethnographer, my work makes possible a very thorough consideration of important aspects of the broader socio-cultural, historical, and political context in which health data and healthcare systems are situated.

Because I have worked with both quantitative (biological anthropological, epidemiological) and qualitative (social anthropological) methods and have been involved in research with public health-related aims as well as work which is critical of public health initiatives, I’m able to look at health-related data and technologies from more than one angle. I can understand the scientific side of health data science as a user of such data and to evaluate claims about what insights bigger ‘real world’ data can deliver from a scientific point of view. In addition, I can consider a bigger picture view that takes in society and understand that while health can be considered a good thing to promote, people’s experiences and views about data surveillance and health care systems really vary and in many places there are health inequalities along various axes, geographic, ethnic, gender, class, etc.

Our collaboration in the Kone Foundation funded ‘Technology, Ethics and Reproduction: Controversy in the Era of Normalisation’ project is an exciting one which will allow me to explore both sociology and queer bioethics in more depth. My interest in the complex ethical principle of justice drives me to think about health care and health data from the perspectives of those who might be least well-served by the systems we have now and the ones which are being built and, most importantly, to think about what it would take to make these systems more just. I hope the collaboration will offer me new ways to think and write about the ethics of health data, reproductive technologies, and health care systems.

I am also collaborating with highly skilled artists on a project called ‘Artificial intelligence, big data, and machine learning in healthcare: exhibition-situated arts-based public engagement and empirical ethics’ which will use an experimental exhibition of speculative futures to evoke ethical deliberation about aspects of health data-driven technological development. The work will be aiming to reach and influence both experts and the general public as patients and data subjects.

You can contact me at mwenza.blell[at]tuni.fi.

Dr. Mwenza Blell

Senior researcher

I’m a biosocial medical anthropologist and I’m interested in gender, sex, reproduction, and technology. I like to work in collaboration and in innovative ways. I’m currently working on research projects which address to the ways that health-related data are being talked about, collected, shared, used, marketed, and managed in new ways. This includes data from electronic health and social care records, from wearable technologies, mobile phones, social media, and genomic and other omic data. Data and data-driven technologies are topics with increasingly obvious contemporary political relevance. As an ethnographer, my work makes possible a very thorough consideration of important aspects of the broader socio-cultural, historical, and political context in which health data and healthcare systems are situated.

Because I have worked with both quantitative (biological anthropological, epidemiological) and qualitative (social anthropological) methods and have been involved in research with public health-related aims as well as work which is critical of public health initiatives, I’m able to look at health-related data and technologies from more than one angle. I can understand the scientific side of health data science as a user of such data and to evaluate claims about what insights bigger ‘real world’ data can deliver from a scientific point of view. In addition, I can consider a bigger picture view that takes in society and understand that while health can be considered a good thing to promote, people’s experiences and views about data surveillance and health care systems really vary and in many places there are health inequalities along various axes, geographic, ethnic, gender, class, etc.

Our collaboration in the Kone Foundation funded ‘Technology, Ethics and Reproduction: Controversy in the Era of Normalisation’ project is an exciting one which will allow me to explore both sociology and queer bioethics in more depth. My interest in the complex ethical principle of justice drives me to think about health care and health data from the perspectives of those who might be least well-served by the systems we have now and the ones which are being built and, most importantly, to think about what it would take to make these systems more just. I hope the collaboration will offer me new ways to think and write about the ethics of health data, reproductive technologies, and health care systems.

I am also collaborating with highly skilled artists on a project called ‘Artificial intelligence, big data, and machine learning in healthcare: exhibition-situated arts-based public engagement and empirical ethics’ which will use an experimental exhibition of speculative futures to evoke ethical deliberation about aspects of health data-driven technological development. The work will be aiming to reach and influence both experts and the general public as patients and data subjects.

You can contact me at mwenza.blell[at]tuni.fi.

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Tiia Sudenkaarne

PhD Researcher / Postdoc Researcher

Working in the Technology, Ethics and Reproduction: Controversy in the Era of Normalization project, I will complete my PhD on queer and feminist bioethics at University of Turku of Practical Philosophy. My theoretical background consists of analytical philosophy and gender studies, which I have found to bridge fascinatingly by feminist and queer bioethics, both interrogating the legitimacy of cis- and heteronormativity in ethical sense-making for a more just and accurate representation of the human condition in terms of gender and sexual diversity. My research topics in the project include trans and intersex diagnostics and ”treatment” as stipulated in the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a global guideline governed by WHO. I will also examine the bioethical status of people identifying as muunsukupuolinen in the current Finnish treatment context.

After obtaining my PhD, I have the pleasure of staying with the project for post-doc research on womb-related technologies, such as womb-transplantion and the ethical arguments justifying the strive for achieving full ectogenesis, human life without human gestation. I argue there are grounds for specifically gendered concerns as what makes womb-related technologies and ectogenesis so appealing to some is the promise of eliminating the cumbersome role of women’s reproductive work. However, to others, they offer relief from biological burden or a way to achieve gestation (trans women).

You can contact me at tiia.sudenkaarne[at]tuni.fi

Tiia Sudenkaarne

PhD Researcher / Postdoc Researcher

Working in the Technology, Ethics and Reproduction: Controversy in the Era of Normalization project, I will complete my PhD on queer and feminist bioethics at University of Turku of Practical Philosophy. My theoretical background consists of analytical philosophy and gender studies, which I have found to bridge fascinatingly by feminist and queer bioethics, both interrogating the legitimacy of cis- and heteronormativity in ethical sense-making for a more just and accurate representation of the human condition in terms of gender and sexual diversity. My research topics in the project include trans and intersex diagnostics and ”treatment” as stipulated in the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a global guideline governed by WHO. I will also examine the bioethical status of people identifying as muunsukupuolinen in the current Finnish treatment context.

After obtaining my PhD, I have the pleasure of staying with the project for post-doc research on womb-related technologies, such as womb-transplantion and the ethical arguments justifying the strive for achieving full ectogenesis, human life without human gestation. I argue there are grounds for specifically gendered concerns as what makes womb-related technologies and ectogenesis so appealing to some is the promise of eliminating the cumbersome role of women’s reproductive work. However, to others, they offer relief from biological burden or a way to achieve gestation (trans women).

You can contact me at tiia.sudenkaarne[at]tuni.fi

muok 1
Poelman muokattu2

Sanna Poelman

PhD Researcher

As a social anthropologist, I am interested in the interlinkage between biomedicine, reproduction, technology and morals/ethics. During my master’s studies, I focused on risk management in childbirth and examined comparatively how risk is envisioned, experienced and mitigated in both a hospital and a home birth setting. What could be concluded from my ethnographic study in the Republic of Ireland was that risk in childbirth is not something static or neutral, but constructed and acted upon in different manners depending on the actors involved. Particular desired outcomes navigate how risk is managed, which again is based on the knowledge framework employed. Perceptions of risk are not only linked to questions of what constitutes a ‘normal’ birth, but also to how birth ought to happen, which makes the discussion inherently a moral/ethical one.

In February 2020, I started as a PhD researcher in the project ‘Technology, Ethics and Reproduction: Controversy in the Era of Normalization ‘, where I will be conducting research in the subproject on ethnic minorities suffering from fertility disruption. I am excited to dive deeper into the field of reproduction and bioethics, and to be part of an international and interdisciplinary research group. 

 

Sanna Poelman

PhD Researcher

As a social anthropologist, I am interested in the interlinkage between biomedicine, reproduction, technology and morals/ethics. During my master’s studies, I focused on risk management in childbirth and examined comparatively how risk is envisioned, experienced and mitigated in both a hospital and a home birth setting. What could be concluded from my ethnographic study in the Republic of Ireland was that risk in childbirth is not something static or neutral, but constructed and acted upon in different manners depending on the actors involved. Particular desired outcomes navigate how risk is managed, which again is based on the knowledge framework employed. Perceptions of risk are not only linked to questions of what constitutes a ‘normal’ birth, but also to how birth ought to happen, which makes the discussion inherently a moral/ethical one.

In February 2020, I started as a PhD researcher in the project ‘Technology, Ethics and Reproduction: Controversy in the Era of Normalization ‘, where I am conducting research in the subproject on ethnic minorities suffering from fertility disruption. My specific focus is on Thai women, family formation and reproductive politics. I am excited to be part of an international and interdisciplinary research group. 

 

Research Outputs

Publications

Peer-reviewed scientific articles and book chapters

accepted, in press M. Blell and R. Homanen. Repropolitical Anxieties and Injustice in Finland’s Haunted Data “Goldmine”. In The New Reproductive Order: Changing In-Fertilities across the Globe. Franklin, SB and MC Inhorn (eds). New York: NYU Press.

Blell, Mwenza and Riikka Homanen (2023) Justice reproductive en Finlande ? Le mythe de l’homogénéité dans une social-démocratie nordique. Travail, Genre et Sociétés 50 (2), 79-95. DOI: 10.3917/tgs.050.0079 (invited contribution to a special issue on reproductive justice and assisted reproductive technologies)

Blell, Mwenza (2023) On the shoulders of giants or the back of a mule: Awareness of multiplicity in citational politics. Medical Anthropology Quarterly. In Press.

Sudenkaarne, Tiia (2022) Queer crip: Rethinking bioethics of surgery for gender and sexual variance. Surgery 172, 1021-23.

Sudenkaarne, Tiia (2022) Feminist Bioethicists and COVID-19: Notes on Vulnerability and Its Missed Chances. International journal of feminist approaches to bioethics 15:1, 112-116.

Sudenkaarne, Tiia (2022) Toward a Queer Feminist Bioethics of Sexuality. In Wendy A. Rogers, Jackie Leach Scully, Stacy M. Carter, Vikki A. Entwistle, Catherine Mills (Eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Feminist Bioethics.

Sudenkaarne, Tiia (2022) Kohtuuttomuuksia: miksi sijaissynnyttämistä ei tule säädellä lapsettomuushoitona. Sukupuolentutkimus-Genusforskning 35(2022): 38–48.

Sudenkaarne, Tiia & Blell, Mwenza (2021), “Reproductive justice for the haunted Nordic welfare state: Race, racism, and queer bioethics in Finland”. (Special issue on Racism in Health and Bioethics) Bioethics 2021: 1-8.   https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/bioe.12973 (open access)

Parhi, Katariina & Sudenkaarne, Tiia (2020), ”Sukupuolen ja seksuaalisuuden lääketieteellisiä tulkintoja: Queer-bioetiikka ja haavoittuvuuden kerrokset historiallisissa psykiatrisissa potilaskertomuksissa.” [Medical interpretations of gender and sexuality: Queer bioethics and layers of vulnerability in historical psychiatric patient records] Niin&Näin 2: 145-153.

Sudenkaarne, Tiia (2020),”Queering Medicalized Gender Variance.” Journal of Ethics, Medicine and Public Health 15: 1-8.

Sudenkaarne, Tiia (2020), Kohtuja ja kohtuuttomuuksia: sijaissynnytystyön bioetiikkaa. [Wombs and woblessness: bioethics of surrogacy] Ajatus, 77(1), 101–130.       

Sudenkaarne, Tiia (2019), Queering Vulnerability: A Layered Bioethical Approach. Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society, 43(3), 73-90. https://doi.org/10.30676/jfas.v43i3.82734.

Non-peer-reviewed scientific texts

Blell, Mwenza (2021) “On the cultivation of Black Feminist pattern recognition” Tidskriften Astra – samhälle, kultur, feminism (A Swedish language Finnish journal) Special Issue 1/2021: Black Feminism in the Nordics / Svart feminism i Norden <https://www.astra.fi/blog/webbartiklar/mwenza-blell-on-the-cultivation-of-black-feminist-pattern-recognition/

Homanen, Riikka (2022) Episode 07: Craft Fertilities. Fertility Futures video interview series <https://www.youtube.com/@reprosoccambridge6641). <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0BCQ-gdIog&list=PL7lsyD6gFuUmXWR9F8cEJUhdvy-_FlFtY&index=7>.

Sudenkaarne, Tiia (2020),”LGBTQI+ Bioethics: The Need and the Foundation.” Journal of Ethics, Medicine and Public Health 13.

Sudenkaarne, T. (2021), Bioetiikan queer-feministisestä tulkintakehyksestä. Lektio. SQS : Suomen queer-tutkimuksen seuran lehti. 15, 1-2, s. 87–95. https://journal.fi/sqs/article/view/112520

Sudenkaarne, T., Vaittinen, T. & Sariola, S. (2021), “Bioeettisiä näkökulmia haavoittavaan pandemiaan” (osa 1) Politiikasta.fi. https://politiikasta.fi/bioeettisia-nakokulmia-haavoittavaan-pandemiaan-osa-1,

Thesis

Byuck, Joren (2022) (TRANS)FORMING KINSHIP. An institutional ethnographic study of transgender fertility care. (Master’s Thesis. Gender Studies International Master´s Programme, Tampere University). https://trepo.tuni.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/142795/BuyckJoren.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y

Sudenkaarne, Tiia (2021), Queering bioethics: a queer feminist framework for vulnerability and principles. (Doctoral Dissertation, University of Turku). https://www.utupub.fi/handle/10024/152419

Tammi, Ronja (2020), Ihmisen alkuja, biosisaruksia ja hukkaan heitettäviä tavaroita: Munasolun toimijuuden olemus yksityisten hedelmöityshoitoklinikoiden internet-sivuilla ja munasoluluovuttajien haastatteluissa [Human Origins, Bio-Siblings, and Discarded Goods: The Essence of Oocyte Agency on the Websites of Private Fertility Treatment Clinics and in Interviews with Egg Donors] (Master’s thesis, Tampere University). http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:tuni-202005044922

Publications for wider audiences & artistic work

2023. Blell, M. An Injury to One (A film). 15min. English (UK), English (UK) subtitles. https://youtu.be/8YjjBqg7VNY? A film about Finland based on our Kone project.

 

2023. Blell, M. and K. Cutting. Museum of Lost Futures // Archive of Found Histories (an exhibition). Exhibited at the Bottleworks, Ouseburn, Newcastle-upon-Tyne for 4 days with a closing party including a short film pulling together the attendees contributions to the work. 

2021.    Blell, M. “Aino-kunto” (short story) Tidskriften Astra – samhälle, kultur, feminism (A Swedish language Finnish journal) Special Issue 1/2021: Black Feminism in the Nordics / Svart feminism i Norden <https://www.astra.fi/blog/webbartiklar/mwenza-blell-aino-kunto/>

2022.    M. Blell. Hankalassa Tiheikössä (In the thorny thicket). 10min. English (UK), English (UK) subtitles. Available online at: https://youtu.be/US8hf1rmL1Y

2020 Furaha Asani & M. Blell  Surviving Society Podcast S2/E1 ‘Objectivity’, scientific racism & racial justice. https://soundcloud.com/user-622675754/sets/thespotlightseries-two [A political podcast ft. academics, students and activists reflecting on the importance of anti-racist and public sociology.

2019. Homanen, R. Suomalaiset munasolut houkuttavat Suomeen hedelmöityshoitoihin: Sosiologinen media kaikille. https://ilmiomedia.fi/artikkelit/suomalaiset-munasolut-houkuttavat-suomeen-hedelmoityshoitoihin/

2019. Homanen, R. Couple normativity in the fertility clinic: Creatively making family by matching gamete donors with single women recipients in private sector care. Singlehood Studies blog. Internet publication. https://singlehoodstudies.net/2020/02/12/couplenormativity-in-the-fertility-clinic-creatively-making-families-by-matching-gamete-donors-with-single-women-recipients-in-private-sector-care-by-riikka-homanen/

2020. Sudenkaarne, T. ”Kuka saa lisääntyä?” [Who is allowed to procreate] Perheyhteiskunta –blogi 26.10.2020. https://www.perheyhteiskunta.fi/2020/10/26/kuka-saa-lisaantya/.  

2021. Sudenkaarne, T. Voiko sijaissynnyttäminen olla työtä? Ilmiö – sosiologinen media kaikille. https://ilmiomedia.fi/artikkelit/voiko-sijaissynnyttaminen-olla-tyota/

2021. Sudenkaarne, T Avusteisen lisääntymisen säätely vaatii uudenlaista eettistä mielikuvitusta. Turun Sanomat 23.10.2022

Invited Talks

2019. Blell, M. (Invited Participant) Commentary panelist to Professor Jade Sasser. Reproductive Justice, Population Control and Environmental Sustainability symposium organised by Lisäntymisen tulevaisuus –project. Helsinki, Finland.

2019. Blell, M. (Invited Participant) Roundtable: The politics of ‘developmental origins’: biological mattering and social justice. American Anthropological  Association/Canadian Anthropology Society Joint Annual Meeting. Vancouver, Canada.

2019. Blell, M. “Beyond concern? Reflecting on genomic data and the times in which we live”. Invited plenary talk and rapporteur feedback at GenoPri19 conference in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

2019. Blell, M. “Ethics, politics, and data in Finland: Pregnant with sterility” Invited joint seminar between the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering, University of Washingon, USA.

2020   M. Blell.  “Be nice. Don’t be threatening. Don’t be threatening. Be nice”: COVID-19 as education toward more just futures. Invited Keynote at Finnish Gender Studies Annual Conference. Tampere, Finland Nov 12-13.

2020  M. Blell. “The Finnish soul has always been linked with the forest”: reproduction, nation, and environment. Invited Keynote at ‘Queer Feminist Approaches to Social Reproduction in the Environmental Crisis’ Conference. Cambridge, UK, Oct 23.

2020. Blell, M. “Ethics, politics, and data in Finland: Pregnant with sterility” Invited Seminar in the Sociology 2025 Seminar Series at University of Helsinki, Finland. 

2021 M. Blell. Bioethics and the Politics of Big Data. The Political Nature of Research Methods event organised by the Institute for Social Science Methods Hub, Newcastle University. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK.

2021.   Blell, M.  ’A place to lay her evil children’: ethics, reproduction, and nationalism. Invited seminar in the Department of Anthropology, Brunel University. London, UK

2022. M. Blell. Health, reproduction, and technology. Invited Keynote in Health and Social Theory Group Seminar in the Department of Sociology, Durham University. Durham, UK

2022. M. Blell. Reproduction and the Nordic welfare state in Finland: ideological closure, temporality, and the myth of homogeneity. Invited Keynote in Reproductive Justice Research Network conference. Cambridge, UK.

2022. M. Blell.  Reproduction, Haunting, and Black Feminism. Invited Keynote in Race and Reproduction in the Nordic countries at Reproductive Futures: Emergent Injustices, Hopes and Paradoxes conference. Tampere, Finland.

2022. T. Sudenkaarne. ProLife in the Chthulucene? Queer Feminist Contemplations on Posthumanist (Bio)ethics. Invited Keynote in m/other becomings symposium. Helsinki, Finland.

Conference Presentations

2023. Sudenkaarne, T. Reading Queer Vulnerabilities: Cases for Bioethics and History of Psychiatry in Finland,1954-1968. Language, gender and sexuality: theoretical and methodological perspectives conference, Helsinki, Finland, 12-13.10.2023.

 

2023. Poelman S. Kinship on the move: reproductive mobilities, journeys and relationalities across borders. “Relations and beyond”- biennial conference of the Finnish Anthropological Society. Rovaniemi, Finland, 21-23.3.2023.

2019. Sudenkaarne, T. International Academy of Law and Mental Health (IALMH), Rome, 21.-27.7.2019: Chair and organizer of Feminist and Queer Bioethics panel.

2019. M. Blell & Homanen, R. ‘The Medicine World Needs Great Data, and Finland’s Got It’: a Qualitative Study. ESA 2019: European Sociological Association. Manchester, UK.

2020  M. Blell and T. Sudenkaarne. A Finnish Haunting: Interrogating Ethical Imaginaries and Reproductive Practices in a Nordic Welfare State. Finnish Gender Studies Annual Conference. Tampere, Finland. Virtual Conference, Nov 12-13.

2020 J. Buyck: (Trans)forming kinship: An institutional ethnographic study of transgender fertility care. Finnish Gender Studies Annual Conference. Tampere, Finland. Virtual Conference, Nov 12-13.

2020 S. Poelman: IN WANT OF A CHILD. An ethnographic study on Thai women living with fertility disruptions and childlessness in Finland. Finnish Gender Studies Annual Conference. Tampere, Finland. Virtual Conference, Nov 12-13.

2021 Poelman S. Kriittinen (auto)etnografia – Tunnevuoristoradan kyydissä. Paneelissa: ’Ilon tuoja vai ilonpilaaja – Autoetnografian rooli tutkimuksessa’. Kulttuuritutkimuksen päivillä Joensuussa (8.-10.12.2021) 

2022 T. Sudenkaarne. On Vulnerability and Principles: A Queer Feminist Framework. Reproductive Futures: Emergent Injustices, Hopes and Paradoxes conference. Tampere, Finland.

2022 T. Sudenkaarne, M. Blell. Reproductive justice for the haunted Nordic welfare state: Race, racism, and queer bioethics in Finland. Reproductive Futures: Emergent Injustices, Hopes and Paradoxes conference. Tampere, Finland.

2022 T. Sudenkaarne. Queering Bioethics: A Queer Feminist Framework for Vulnerability and Principles. 16th World Congress of Bioethics. Basel, Switzerland.

2022 T. Sudenkaarne. Queering Bioethics: A Queer Feminist Framework for Vulnerability and Principles. Congress of the Feminist Approaches to Bioethics (FAB). Basel, Switzerland.

2022 T. Sudenkaarne, M. Blell. Reproductive justice for the haunted Nordic welfare state: Race, racism, and queer bioethics. 16th World Congress of Bioethics. Basel, Switzerland.

2022 Poelman S. Reproductive Justice Examined: Family making in the context of Thai women in Finland. Reproductive Futures: Emergent Injustices, Hopes and Paradoxes conference. Tampere, Finland.

Edited volumes and special issues

T. Sudenkaarne, Co-Editor, Journal of Ethics, Medicine and Public Health‘s special issue on LGBT bioethics, 13/2020.

Awards and nominations

T. Sudenkaarne: Nominated for Mark S. Ehrenreich Prize in Healthcare Ethics Research at IAB:n World Congress of Bioethics 2020.