Conceiving Silence: Infertility as Discursive Contradiction in Ireland


This article examines the production and reproduction of silence around infertility in Ireland. Based on narratives collected during 18 months of fieldwork, this article locates the contradictory role of silence in both the private experiences of individuals faced with a difficulty conceiving and in institutions constituted as mechanisms of public support. For many people who experience infertility, silence is rooted in the social stigma associated with reproductive failure or sexual inadequacy. Silence protects privacy while at the same time foreclosing both challenges to assumptions that fertility is the norm and any counterdiscourse to the heteronormative, profamily society in Ireland. I show how the reproduction of silence about infertility is a legacy of Ireland’s history, reproductive politics, and the cultural idiom of choice. I argue that support networks and Internet bulletin boards on websites create opportunities to dialogue in silence, reproducing isolation rather than creating public discourse.

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