Yale Authority on Infertility in the Middle East Is Twice Honored

Yale Professor Marcia Inhorn, a leading scholar in the field of medical anthropology, has been named the first Diane Middlebrook and Carl Djerassi Visiting Professor at the Centre for Gender Studies at the University of Cambridge in honor of her contributions to feminist theory and her empirical research on infertility and assisted reproductive technologies in the Middle East. In addition, Inhorn has recently been named the recipient of the 2010 Royan Award for her pioneering research on the Islamic bioethics of assisted reproduction.

The post that Inhorn will hold at the University of Cambridge was established by Carl Djerassi (best known as the inventor of the oral contraceptive pill) of Stanford University in honor of his late wife Diane Middlebrook, who was the head of gender studies at Stanford. As part of her Visiting Professorship, Inhorn will spend a sabbatical semester at Cambridge in Fall 2010 and will deliver a major public address on October 26. While in the United Kingdom, she will also conduct a town hall meeting with Prof. Djerassi for The Guardian newspaper.

Internationally recognized for her scholarship on the social impact of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), Inhorn is the first social scientist to conduct studies on infertility outside the West, including male infertility and “reproductive tourism,” whereby individuals who are prevented from accessing ARTs in their own country seek infertility treatment in countries where those procedures are legal and affordable.

Inhorn, who is the William K. Lanman Jr. Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs at Yale, began working in Egypt in the late 1980s, examining both the stigma of infertility, but also the introduction of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other ARTs into the Middle Eastern region. In recent years, she has examined the varying Islamic bioethical discourses surrounding gamete donation (donor eggs and sperm) and surrogacy, which are now allowed in Shia-dominant Iran and Lebanon, but banned in other Muslim countries. In 2006, Inhorn traveled to Iran to address this issue at a conference on “Embryo and Gamete Donation” and wrote a piece on her experience for The Chronicle of Higher Education. The Royan Award, given by the Royan Institute, a leading center for reproductive biomedicine and stem cell research in Tehran, recognizes Inhorn’s contributions to the scholarship of IVF and gamete donation in the Muslim world. Inhorn has been invited to receive her prize and deliver a lecture there in September 2010.

At Yale, Inhorn serves as chair of the Council on Middle East Studies in the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, and is the founding editor of Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, the professional journal of the Association of Middle East Women’s Studies of the Middle East Studies Association. She is currently completing a book, “Reconceiving Middle Eastern Manhood: Islam, Assisted Reproduction, and Emergent Masculinities,” which promises to challenge many Western stereotypes about Middle Eastern men and their treatment of women.

In addition to her work in Middle East Studies, Inhorn is a past-president of the Society for Medical Anthropology (SMA) of the American Anthropological Association, and was program chair and co-organizer of the SMA conference on “Medical Anthropology at the Intersections: Celebrating 50 Years of Interdisciplinarity,” which was held at Yale in September 2009.

Inhorn has written three award-winning books on infertility in Egypt and has edited numerous volumes on reproduction and global health more generally. She is associate editor of Global Public Health and co-editor of the Berghahn Book series on “Fertility, Sexuality, and Reproduction.”

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Dorie Baker: dorie.baker@yale.edu, 203-432-1345