Fertility and Family in Switzerland


Fertility and Family in Switzerland. Local Processes of Reproduction and Kinship in Transnational Contexts of Biomedical Technologies

Switzerland, like many other European countries, is confronted with remarkable demographic changes (e.g. low fertility rates, increase in life expectancy) which have caused considerable anxiety and public debate regarding future welfare, generational inequity, care of the elderly and infertility. In the case of unwanted childlessness, treatments by biomedical reproductive technologies are increasingly sought after - by heterosexual couples, lesbians and gays, and intergenerational extended families. Although the use of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) in Switzerland is strongly increasing, biomedical technologies of human reproduction, their social and cultural conditions and effects are a heavily understudied field in Swiss social science. With this research project (April 2010 - March 2013) we intend to continue the Swiss part of the SCOPES project entitled ‘New Reproductive Technologies and the Making of Bodies, Persons, and Families in Russia and Switzerland’. Thereby we aim to establish the field of research on kinship, gender and reproductive technologies from an ethnographic perspective in Switzerland, which is already intensively investigated in other English and German speaking countries. The proposed project pursues an approach beyond classical sociological studies on the family in Switzerland, and starts from existing international research. This shows that ARTs is socially and culturally conditioned and has far reaching implications regarding kin and family relationships. We investigate the cultural meanings of fertility, reproduction and normative and non-normative family life, and explore how ‘fertility’ and ‘family’ are locally created by the uses of reproductive technologies and kinship ideas and practices of different individual and institutional actors. The goal of the research project is to achieve detailed insight into the processual efforts to have children and to build and continue ones ‘own family’ in Switzerland through the technologies of in vitro fertilization (IVF), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), donor insemination (DI) and related techniques. The main research questions are: How do processes of having children and of making kin with transnationalized reproductive technologies lead to the kinship configurations of (1) the heterosexual nuclear family, (2) the lesbian and gay family, or (3) the intergenerational extended family as they are perceived and lived today? In what ways are these kinning processes similar, and how do they differ? How are they legitimized, legally and ethically, and on which kinds of cosmological principles, or value systems, are they based? We will particularly explore the interrelationships of the cultural notions and social practices of the actors within these three kinship configurations with civil, medical, national and transnational institutions and discourses, i.e. the ‘helping hand’ of clinicians, their technologies and regulations, national regulations and transnational conditions and knowledge spaces. Methodologically, we will employ an approach with a special emphasis on ethnographic interviewing (about 300 interviews) and participant observation. We will also collect genealogies, autobiographical kinship narratives, and photographic materials from members of the researched kinship configurations. Further, interviews will be conducted with experts of civil society institutions, medical and governmental institutions.




Documents et liens

Informations sur le projet


Allemand, Anglais

Début du projet:


Fin du projet:





Reproduction – production d’enfants
Famille – parentalité – parenté
Santé – médecine


Etudes Genre, Ethnologie, Sociologie


Projet de recherche