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Making a Good Life:
An Ethnography of Nature, Ethics, and Reproduction
Katharine Dow

Paperback | 2016 | $27.95 | £22.95 | ISBN: 9780691171753
Hardcover | 2016 | $70.00 | £58.95 | ISBN: 9780691167480
248 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | 3 halftones. 1 map.
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400881062 |
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Introduction[PDF] pdf-icon

A Q&A with Katharine Dow

Making a Good Life takes a timely look at the ideas and values that inform how people think about reproduction and assisted reproductive technologies. In an era of heightened scrutiny about parenting and reproduction, fears about environmental degradation, and the rise of the biotechnology industry, Katharine Dow delves into the reproductive ethics of those who do not have a personal stake in assisted reproductive technologies, but who are building lives inspired and influenced by environmentalism and concerns about the natural world's future.

Moving away from experiences of infertility treatments tied to the clinic and laboratory, Dow instead explores reproduction and assisted reproductive technologies as topics of public concern and debate, and she examines how people living in a coastal village in rural Scotland make ethical decisions and judgments about these matters. In particular, Dow engages with people's ideas about nature and naturalness, and how these relate to views about parenting and building stable environments for future generations. Taking into account the ways daily responsibilities and commitments are balanced with moral values, Dow suggests there is still much to uncover about reproductive ethics.

Analyzing how ideas about reproduction intersect with wider ethical struggles, Making a Good Life offers a new approach to researching, thinking, and writing about nature, ethics, and reproduction.

Katharine Dow is a research associate in the Reproductive Sociology Research Group at the University of Cambridge.


"[Dow’s] musings about dong anthropological fieldwork in Spey Bay add a layer of brilliant reflexivity to her scholarly account."--Barbara J. King, Times Literary Supplement


"Why are new reproductive technologies an ethical issue, and how do people make judgments in this regard? In this sensitive portrayal of individuals involved in a wildlife center in a Scottish village, Dow reveals how ethical positions are adopted by reference to everyday experiences and relations. The ethics of reproduction comes to be connected to ideas of a good life, responsible technologizing, environmental sustainability, natural parenting, and altruistic communities."--Nigel Rapport FRSE, University of St Andrews

"In Making a Good Life, Dow offers a creative, original examination of ideas about nature, reproduction, and what ethical life entails for inhabitants of Spey Bay in northeast Scotland. The delicate web she spins between her chosen themes demonstrates their salience far beyond the contexts described. Indeed, context is just one of the fertile notions in play here as conceptions of the good life are shown to reach across domains and distant geographic locations--with implications for all of us who are interested in the future."--Janet Carsten, University of Edinburgh

"This beautifully written book challenges traditional accounts of nature, reproduction, and ethics, not only by demonstrating new relationships between them, but also by radically redefining these core concepts. Dow's magnificent work sets a new course for the future of reproductive studies and the social study of ethics, kinship, and the environment."--Sarah Franklin, University of Cambridge

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Table of Contents:

Acknowledgements ix
Prologue: The Sperm Whale’s Teeth 1
Introduction: Life in a Nature Reserve 7
// Where the River Meets the Sea 50
1 Ethical Labour 55
// Beginnings 81
2 Future Generations 83
// The Water of Life 103
3 Origin Stories 107
// Arrivals 129
4 Ties That Bind 134
// The Sperm Whale’s Teeth Revisited 161
5 Money Talks 164
// You’ve Been Trumped! 184
6 A Stable Environment 187
Notes 201
Bibliography 217
Index 229

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    File created: 9/7/2017

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