Aliza Shvarts’s Art of Aborting: Queer Conceptions and Resistance to Reproductive Futurism

Abstract

In April 2008, the Yale Daily News published an article introducing Yale University fine arts student Aliza Shvarts's senior undergraduate art project. In the article, Shvarts announced that as part of her project she had been privately artificially inseminating herself every month during a nine-month period, and performing self-induced miscarriages by ingesting abortifacient drugs each month. The announcement ignited a national controversy, sparking university protests and 'pro-life' outcries across internet communities. Ultimately, the Yale School of Art banned the project from being exhibited. No feminist made an immediate defence of Shvarts's work. Through an in-depth exploration of Shvarts's art project, this essay aims to critically interrogate the politics of reproduction and the rhetoric of futurity in relation to a woman's social and symbolic positioning in a culture that places heterosexual reproduction and the institution of family at the heart of future. I argue that Shvarts's project was an attempt to explore how art could be a means to empty the realm of femininity of its symbolic 'function' within a patriarchal order. By means of her radical refusal of reproduction, manifested in a series of repeated abortions, she staged a resistance to the patriarchal symbolic positioning of a woman – the positioning within which a woman's life is intelligible insofar as it follows the pre-determined reproductive narrative of 'natural' womanhood (birth, marriage, motherhood and death) – so that a multitude of new narratives and possibilities could be birthed. I argue that Shvarts is the author of the possibility for imagining the future that is not mapped in advance for a woman – the future in which she is not an 'object' of reproduction but an 'author'. Drawing on Jack J. Halberstam's concept of shadow feminism and Lee Edelman's reproductive futurism, I will also suggest that Shvarts's performance provides an invaluable reflection on the queer and feminist politics of negativity. This is the politics that is against assimilation into a heteronormative social order, ideological naturalisation of a woman's body, and a vision of the future as something always bound up with linear descendancy.

How to Cite

Grahovac A., (2013) “Aliza Shvarts’s Art of Aborting: Queer Conceptions and Resistance to Reproductive Futurism”, Studies in the Maternal 5(2). p.1-19. doi: https://doi.org/10.16995/sim.17

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Ana Grahovac ( )

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