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Laetitia Della Bianca – The Cyclic Self: Menstrual Cycle Tracking as Body Politics

In the latest issue of Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, and Technoscience on “Self-Tracking, Embodied Differences, and the Politics and Ethics of Health”, Laetitia Della Bianca, a researcher at the Laboratoire d’étude des sciences et des techniques (STSlab UNIL), considers the political dimensions of practices of fertility self-tracking.


This article explores to what extent, and under what conditions, practices of fertility self-tracking shape and are shaped by particular power relations. Drawing on twenty-six interviews with users of a specific fertility tracker, I argue that through these self-tracking practices, users shape a relationship with their body that I call “cyclic self-fashioning”—a process through which the datafied body becomes a catalyst for understanding and intervening on the self. The article analyzes the ways these technologies contribute to users’ relationships with what emerges as the “fertile female body” and what comes to count as axiomatic about it. While at first glance the process of cyclic self-fashioning can be perceived as a reinforcement of biologism, it nonetheless challenges the appropriation by users of their biosociodigital body in everyday life. By focusing on practices that have received little attention so far in the self-tracking literature, the article shows how normative expectations in/of/from Western biomedicine about the fertile female body are used, challenged, or resisted by users in the pursuit of various purposes that extend beyond the optimization of an idealized reproductive body.


Vol 7 No 1 (2021): Special Section: Self-Tracking, Embodied Differences, and the Politics and Ethics of Health




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