‘Mitti’ and ‘Beej’: The Metaphors and Meaning Making of Infertility and Assisted Reproductive Technologies

Rashmi Patel


In India, it is estimated that approximately 9% couples struggle with infertility of which 56% couples seek medical care1,2. Out of these treatment seeking individuals, some require serious medical intervention involving the use of advanced Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) procedures. Assisted reproductive technologies, by definition, refer to all techniques and interventions which require the ‘in vitro handling of human oocytes, spermatozoa and embryos for the purpose of reproduction’3. Through the present paper, the author explains how a complex, scientific technology is translated into local metaphors for its users to comprehend, convince and consume. Roughly understood as doctor-patient interaction, this process of meaning-making of how and why the technology works (or fails) wrest with the concepts of knowledge, power, authority and agency. The paper also shows how the translation of assisted reproductive technology into local meaning and metaphors is carried out in a socio-economic context with class connotations. The present paper is based on the author’s doctoral research on infertility, its experience and treatment in the infertility clinics of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. The paper finds that doctors often used the metaphors of ‘mitti’ and ‘beej’ to explain the process of reproduction, its treatment and failure to the patients. It was found that meaning-making of the treatment process was done more carefully with patients from upper socio-economic background as compared to patients from the lower socio-economic background.



Infertility; in-vitro fertilization; assisted reproductive technologies; Metaphors; Doctor-Patient Interaction

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