8 February 2023 online

Lucy Burke

Black and white portrait of academic Lucy BurkeThis talk will explore the complex entanglement of new reproductive technologies, genetics, health economics, rights-based discourses and ethical considerations of the value of human life with particular reference to representations of Down’s syndrome and the identification of trisomy 21. Prompted by the debates that have occurred in the wake of the adoption of non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), the talk will consider the representation of Down’s syndrome and prenatal testing in bioethical discourse, feminist writings on reproductive autonomy and disability studies and in popular fiction. Burke will argue that the conjunction of neo-utilitarian and neoliberal and biomedical models produce a hostile environment in which the concrete particularities of disabled people’s lives and experiences are placed under erasure for a ‘genetic fiction’ that imagines the life of the ‘not yet born’ infant with Down’s syndrome as depleted, diminished and burdensome.


Lucy Burke is Principal Lecturer in the Department of English at Manchester Metropolitan University. She specialises in critical medical humanities, literary and cultural disability studies and critical and cultural theory. Her research considers representations of dementia and cognitive disability in contemporary literature, life writing and film. She is also interested in cultural representations of disability more generally and in the impact of new medical technologies on the ways in which we think about ourselves and others.

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