Aspects of the social organisation of "male infertility"
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This dissertation revolves around three main elements: 'male infertility'; existing social science research on infertility; and ethno methodology. The substantive topic 'male infertility' is enclosed in quotation marks for two reasons. First, following the overall form of ethno methodological inquiry, the aim is to explicate how the sense and order of 'male infertility' is constituted through available socially organised procedures; hence, the quotation marks are used to 'bracket' the phenomenon and focus on the methods that make it available. Second, 'male infertility' is a convenient shorthand topic label, a general organising concept, as opposed to a precise label for a tightly defined phenomenon. While this study's approach makes it very different to existing sociological studies of infertility, the difference is not to the extent of isolation - a strong attempt is made to engage with prior studies. Often this engagement takes a critical form, the general argument being that sociological studies which approach phenomena for the way they 'bear the marks' of societal structures, will ignore the incarnate orderliness of social action - that is, the way social action is readily explicable to members, in and as it occurs, using the resources at-hand, with 'no time-out'. Ethno methodology suggests that this ready explicability is based upon taken-for-granted, socially organised sense-assembly practices - thus, this study's argument that the content, the intelligibility of 'male infertility is interdependent with the social scenes and embedded socially organised procedures, with and within which 'male infertility' is found. Form and content stand or fall together. Consistent with this viewpoint, four empirical analyses of the social organisation of 'male infertility' are offered. The specific topics discussed are: the conversational disclosure of infertility; the language of reproduction; humour and infertility; and high rates of non-response by men in studies of infertility. In general, the empirical analyses are 'indifferent' to the topic of study, that is, there is no overriding aim of offering practical correctives or broader socio-political critique. However, in at least one empirical chapter a more critical stand is taken, and, in the concluding chapter, it is argued that an ethno methodological descriptivist approach can have socio-political implications. Overall, the study supports the growing trend for ethno methodological insights to be utilised in the study of substantive topics; and, since the dissertation is a form of writing 'anew', it can be considered to minimally change 'male infertility' as a form of life.