Reconstructing Biopower: From an Analysis of Television Programs about Conducting Surrogacy

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 4:00 PM
Room: 304
Oral Presentation
Yoshie YANAGIHARA , Tokyo Denki University, Japan
How does performance affect the human body in terms of biopower? This research analyzes a process where discourse about reproductive technology leads to its implementation to change actual bodies. From an examination of television programs in Japan, I show how culture impacts the materialistic sphere, which is mediated by performance regarding “America,” an icon of modernization for the Japanese.

The Japanese national public broad casting organization, NHK (Nippon Hoso Kyokai), has aired programs about reproductive technology since the emergence of In Vitro Fertilization. At the beginning, it portrayed the technology as a realization of scientific progressivism, but regarded the ethical aspects as unrealistic. In the discourse, the image of Europe was that of an agent of intelligence; on the other hand, the image of the U.S. is that of savageness.

 However, after a Japanese celebrity couple conducted surrogacy in the U.S., “America” became a normative model for the Japanese; there was a contrast between the undeveloped Japanese and the developed American in terms of modernization. The television programs implied surrogacy stands for emancipation from the traditional Japanese convention to oppress women to construct a modern family. Moreover, they constructed a solemn image of the children taken from the U.S. by utilizing imaginary which evolves memories of the imperial coronations.

 These images raised a positive public opinion toward surrogacy; which led the government to rush to legalize it. However, after foreign mass media revealed that a Japanese male had conducted surrogacy in India with a purchased egg (known as Manji’s case), NHK stopped discussing surrogacy and the Japanese government postponed the legalization of surrogacy. The Manji’s case showed the Japanese had already gone beyond the savage and modernized “America.” Therefore the Japanese lost their frame of reference.

 The above examination indicates the decision to apply reproductive technology depends on culture.