CareNet Seminar: "Tracking the (Risky) Maternal Body: Pregnancy in a Digital Age"

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 report the findings of a critical discourse analysis of pregnancy-related mobile software applications designed for smartphones (‘apps’).


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 11.00h

Organized by

Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, CareNet research group of the IN3


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The speaker wilI discuss how such technologies configure pregnant embodiment in two distinct ways. First, the pregnant body is depicted within apps as a site of risk which requires careful self-surveillance to reduce potential harm to women and their foetuses. With the pregnant body increasingly becoming a highly public and tightly-monitored ‘condition’, apps – as socio-cultural artefacts embedded with meanings and values – configure women as exclusively responsible for self- and foetal-care together with acquiring knowledge about their pregnancy. Drawing on the corpus of Michel Foucault, we can argue that this, in turn, connects with apparatuses of bio-politics in neoliberal societies, in which app use is promoted as one more regime of ritual purity in the avid pursuit of attaining a ‘normal’ pregnancy. Second, pregnant bodies and self-tracking are shaped in more playful ways, in which pregnancy is constructed as a ‘social event’. However, these apps endorse expectations around pregnancy behaviour which reproduce heteronormative and gendered ideals (and stereotypes) around sexuality, parenthood, and consumption. Specifically, these apps are deeply rooted in – and act to reproduce – cultural ideologies of female sexual beauty and heteronormative gender assumptions (including framing male partners as disinterested and incompetent). Taken together, such apps represent women’s bodies in problematic ways, rest on neoliberal ideologies concerning the management and responsibilisation of the self/body, and encourage users to view pregnancy as an embodied mode of close monitoring and surveillance, display, and performance.


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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