Lucy van de Wiel

Winner Dissertation Prize 2017

Freezing Fertility. Oocyte Cryopreservation and the Gender Politics of Ageing.

Supervisor: Prof. dr. M. Bal, Prof. dr. J. van Dijck
Co-supervisor: Dr. E. Peeren
Nomination: University of Amsterdam, Faculty of Humanities

Report by the Selection Committee

Examining the introduction of ‘oocyte cryopreservation’ (the freezing of eggs) in the early 21st century, using the innovative methods associated with the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis, this thesis relates the concern with why or if women should freeze their eggs to a contemporary rethinking and politicisation of ageing. The dissertation shows how the possibility of freezing eggs, which allows motherhood to be postponed, has profound consequences for the way in which female aging is understood. The material the thesis examines is diverse and includes time-lapse photography, documentaries, and news coverage, and the author deftly synthesizes gender studies, biotechnology studies and ageing studies. Parallel to this, the author analyses the cultural debates around these technological developments, showing how egg freezing triggers a series of discussions which are similar internationally and indicative about the sign of the times as a whole. The jury considers this dissertation highly original, lucidly written and above all an important theoretical contribution to understanding gender constructions, reproduction and ageing.