CareNet Seminar: "The Motility of Stigma: Reproductive Medicine and Disability Publics"

The Care and Preparedness in the Network Society (CareNet) research group of the IN3 organises this research seminar by Dr. Gareth Thomas, Lecturer in Sociology in the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University (UK). He will explain us how Down’s syndrome is configured in two separate spaces.


Room -1A, UOC Castelldefels building (Parc Mediterrani de la Tecnologia, B3 building)
Av. Carl Friedrich Gauss, 5
Castelldefels (Barcelona)
08860 Castelldefels (Barcelona)


22/06/2017 16.00h

Organized by

Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, CareNet research group of the IN3


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The speaker will explore how Down’s syndrome, a genetic condition, is configured in two separate spaces: the prenatal clinic and the public imaginary. In such spaces, framed by ‘motile’ moments, Down’s syndrome is enacted in two different, competing ways. In the public sphere, the condition is frequently sketched out as a life marked by dignity and worth. This is part of what Ginsburg and Rapp (2015) call a ‘disability public’, namely, how people with disabilities and their allies are ‘interpellated and materialised through a range of media, across widely distributed networks of people with shared experiences of disability’. Various forms of media and other outputs – autobiographical accounts, blogs, websites, social networks, television shows, activisms, art forms, etc. – help to construct a Down’s syndrome public in which new social imaginaries of difference are erected. This positive and public symbolic work constitute an emergent form of recognition and location for alternative engagement, in which people with Down’s syndrome are given a future as well as a meaningful present. Yet in the medical setting, where discourses shape how people come to view bodily difference, Down’s syndrome is enacted subtly, and it seems unintentionally, as a negative outcome. Positive imaginaries are absent, as are discussions of the place of dis/ability in prenatal medicine. The condition is spoken around as opposed to spoken about, with the discourse of ‘risk’ – and similar pervading classifications of ‘problems’, ‘bad news’, and ‘abnormality’ – painting a universalising (and negative) picture of Down’s syndrome. In the everyday and banal social practices of the clinic, then, certain (future) bodies and ways of being in the world are threatened, denied, and enacted as un/wanted and un/valued. In short, he will explore how disability worlds are motile, that is, they are made ‘inhabitable’ and ‘uninhabitable’ at different moments.


Gareth Thomas is a Lecturer in Sociology in the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University, UK. He is a sociologist who is interested in (among other things) medicine, disability, stigma, reproduction, technology, and place. Gareth published his first research monograph - Down's Syndrome Screening and Reproductive Politics: Care, Choice, and Disability in the Prenatal Clinic - in March 2017. He is also Co-Convenor of the Medicine, Science and Culture Research Group (MeSC) at Cardiff University and Co-Book Reviews Editor for the Sociology of Health and Illness journal.

The seminar will be held in English.

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