Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Crowd-Source Pregnancy Test

Waiting for an indeterminate number of hours to see something that none of us can be certain that we will recognize offers a quite a window of opportunity for reflection. Surely most home pregnancy tests stretch out the 60 seconds that it takes to get a reading into what seems like an eternity: but from our perspective this adrenaline fueled sense of time is condensed and distorted. It situates us in a very brief moment in history that is precisely bounded by the year 1978, and it is one that changes this experience from a gradual process of realization to a sudden ontological shift.

Changing the temporality of becoming pregnant, of knowing, or experiencing oneself as pregnant, has lots of interesting implications. We rightly congratulate ourselves on scientific progress in this arena because pushing back the time of the pregnancy test makes it possible to start prenatal health care or to end a pregnancy earlier and more safely. But how is this connected to the sacred or secular notion of ensoulment – with all of its implications for moral and emotional responsibility, and the burden that places on pregnant women and their kin and communities? Pregnancy literally and figuratively transforms the boundaries of the self (however these were built up and maintained in the first place). So becoming pregnant is, in a very familiar but also very strange sense, a profoundly public event, in which many people and creatures have a stake. Insofar as frogs and rabbits historically have participated in mediating this transformation, they become part of the social space into which new configurations of personhood and kinship emerge. So part of this experiment is about literally making public and thus opening up a space for reflection on the inherently public character of pregnancy, and the way that is mediated by the technologies of knowing the condition of one’s own body and the bodies of others.

In this crowd-source pregnancy test no one knows who will be the first to find out the good news or to experience the disappointment--unless, that is, we can ascribe a certain kind of embodied knowledge to Loretta herself. 


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