This course is discontinued

SOS9229 – Genetic Connections - From Family Life to Global Industry

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

The introduction of methods of assisted reproduction in developed and developing societies is radically changing basic assumptions about the genetically related family.  These changes ripple through families and are experienced at a deeply personal level, but at the same time global industries are being created to allow wealthy would-be parents to access services provided in poorer developing societies (e.g. surrogacy in India). In this PhD course theoretical and political issues as well as methodological approaches regarding donor conception and surrogacy will be highlighted and discussed in relation to empirical research in the field. Invited speakers will illuminate the issues from sociological (Prof Carol Smart, Manchester University), anthropological (Prof Marit Melhus, University of Oslo), criminological (Prof May Len Skilbrei, University of Oslo) and legal (Prof Stine Jørgensen, University of Copenhagen) perspectives. This will all take place on the second day, where a panel discussion with the invited speakers will sum up the issues raised during the day. On the first day Prof Carol Smart will present her recently completed research project “Relative Strangers: Family Life, Genes and Donor conception” in more depth so as to illuminate important issues raised throughout the research process as well as the issue of dissemination of the research results. On the third and last day of the course we will focus on the research projects and examination papers of the participants, under the guidance of Prof Carol Smart and Prof Karin Widerberg (in charge of the course).


PhD students at the Department of Sociology and Human Geography register for the course in StudentWeb

Interested participants outside the Department of Sociology and Human Geography shall fill out this application form.

The deadline for registration is 1st October2014.


Please sign up to the researcher seminar on 15th October here. The deadline for registration is 1st October 2014.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

Open for all interested Ph.D. students.



14.10.14 - Relative strangers. Family life, genes and donor conception.


10.15 – 10.30             Presentation of the course, Prof Karin Widerberg, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo


10.30 – 12.00              Ways in, ways out. An empirical project on donor conception – methodological and political reflections. Prof Carol Smart, The Morgan Center, Manchester University


12.00 - 13.00             Lunch


13.00 – 14.00             Presentation of the participants research interests and Projects


14.00 - 15.00             Ways in ways out… to be continued


15.00 – 15.15             Coffee


15.15 – 16.00             Questions and issues for the next to days



15.10.14 - Different approaches, different issues?


10.15- 10.30              Welcome address, Prof Karin Widerberg, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo


10.30 – 11.30             Relative Strangers: Genes and Families, Prof Carol Smart, The Morgan Center, Manchester University


11.30 – 12.30             Adoption and Personal Relationships, Assoc. Prof Stine Jørgensen, Law faculty, University of Copenhagen


12.30 – 13.15             Lunch


13.15-14.15               Biotechnology and kinship: some issues of Norwegian biopolitics, Prof Marit Melhuus, Department of Anthropolgy, University of Oslo


14.15-15.15               Contested choices: Mandatory parenthood, inequality and exploitation, Prof May-Len Skilbrei, Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law, University of Oslo


15.15-15.30               Coffee break


15.30 – 17.00             Plenary discussion


16.10.14 - Way forward


10.15- 12.00              Summing up yesterday; issues and approaches


12.00-13.00               Lunch


13.00-15.00               Topics for examination and research papers


15.00-16.00               Evaluation of the course



Requested Reading:

Petra Nordqvist& Carol Smart (2014) Relative Strangers. Family Life, Genes and Donor Conception. Palgrave Macmillan. 165 pages

Marit Melhus (2012) Problems of Conception. Issues of Law, Biotechnology, Individual and Kinship. Oxford: Berghahn, 174 pages

Wendy Brown (1995): States of Injury. Power and Freedom in Late Modernity. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Chapter 6: Liberalism’s Family Values, pp. 135-165, 31 pages.

Angela Campbell (2013): Sister Wives, Surrogates and Sex Workers. Outlaws by Choice? Ashgate. Chapter 3: Engaging with Surrogates’ Choices: Tracing and Proscribing Viable Mothers in Law, pp. 97-142, 46 pages.

Kimberley M. Mutcherson (2013): Tranformative Reproduction. The Journal of Gender, Race & Justice 16: 187-233, 47 pages. Can be accessed here:

John. A. Robertson (2010): Commerce and Regulation in the Assisted Reproduction Industry. Pp. 191-207 in Michele Bratcher Goodwin (ed.): Baby Markets. Money and the New Politics of Creating Families. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 16 pages.

Jana Sawicki (1991): Disciplining Foucault: Feminism, Power, and the Body. New York: Routledge. Chapter 4: Disciplining Mothers: Feminism and the New Reproductive Technologies, pp. 67-94, 27 pages.

Viviana A. Zelizer (2010): Risky exchanges. Pp. 267-277 in Michele Bratcher Goodwin (ed.): Baby Markets. Money and the New Politics of Creating Families. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 11 pages.

C. Smart (2009) “Making Kin: Relationality and Law”, in A Bottomly eds Changing countours of Domestic Life. Caring and Sharing”, pp 7-23, Onati International Series in Law and Society

European Court of Human Rights: Pini and Others vs Romania, Appl 78028/01 and 78030/01, Aune vs Norway, Appl. 52052/07


For questions regarding the course, please contact Prof. Karin Widerberg,, phone no 22855247.


It is a 3-day course, and required reading (500 pages), active participation, a presentation (sent in before the start of the course) and a paper as a final examination, is required to attain 6 Points.

Each participant is requested to send in a page describing her/his Ph.D.-project (aim, research questions and methodological approaches), one week before the start of the course, that is before 12 o’clock on 7th October 2014. Requested reading is 500 pages from the reading list (see below) where the mandatory reading is marked with a *. Attendance and active participation is requested throughout the course. Examination will be in the form of a written paper on 10-15 pages on a topic agreed upon with Prof. Carol Smart and Prof. Karin Widerberg (in charge of the course) who both will read and comment upon the papers. The deadline for handing in the paper is 14th Desember.

Send both papers to Katalin Godberg,

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a pass/fail scale. Read more about the grading system.

Facts about this course






Autumn 2014

14-16th October 2014



Autumn 2014

Teaching language