Rapp, Rayna 1946(?)-
RAPP, Rayna 1946(?)-
PERSONAL: Born c. 1946. Education: University of Michigan, B.S. (with honors), 1968, M.S., 1969, Ph. D., 1973.
CAREER: New School for Social Research, New York, NY; New York University, New York, NY, professor of anthropology.
AWARDS, HONORS: Senior Book Prize, American Ethnological Society, Basker Prize, Society for Medical Anthropology, and Forsythe Prize, Committee on the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing, all for Testing Women, Testing the Fetus: The Social Impact of Amniocentesis in America.
(Editor, with Sonia Krunks and Marilyn B. Young) Promissory Notes: Women in the Transition to Socialism, Monthly Review Press (New York, NY), 1989.
(Editor, with Jane Schneider; and contributor) Articulating Hidden Histories: Exploring the Influence of Eric R. Wolf, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1995.
(Editor, with Faye D. Ginsburg; and author of introduction) Conceiving the New World Order: The Global Politics of Reproduction, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1995.
Testing Women, Testing the Fetus: The Social Impact of Amniocentesis in America, Routledge (New York, NY), 1999.
Contributor to anthologies, including The Powers of Desire, edited by Ann Snitow, Christine Stansell, and Sharon Thompson, Monthly Review, Press, 1984; Sex& Gender Hierarchies, edited by Barbara Miller, University of Chicago Press, 1993; Naturalizing Power: Feminist Cultural Analysis, edited by Carol Delaney and Sylvia Yanagisako, Routledge, 1995; Fetal Positions, Feminist Practices, edited by Lynn Morgan and Meredith Michaels, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999; and Relative Matters: Reconfiguring Kinship Studies, edited by Sarah Franklin and Susan McKinnon, Duke University Press, 2002. Also contributor to periodicals, including Public Culture, Journal of Genetic Counseling, Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Women & Health, Feminist Studies, Studies in European Society, Journal of the American Medical Women's Association, and Anthropology and Humanism Quarterly.
SIDELIGHTS: Rayna Rapp is the author of Testing Women, Testing the Fetus: The Social Impact of Amniocentesis in America, a work that has received several awards, including the Senior Book Prize from the American Ethnological Society. The book looks at the now-routine American practice of performing amniocentesis, a test that determines whether an unborn child is likely to suffer from a number of birth defects and that also reveals the sex of the fetus, used primarily in the case of older mothers who are at greater statistical risk.
Rapp addresses the testing process from a feminist, anthropological point of view, discussing the social meanings inherent in the use of the procedure. She also writes from personal experience, having herself received a positive result on the prenatal test that led her to choose to terminate a pregnancy. The experience drove her to research the topic extensively and, eventually, to write about her findings. In gathering material, Rapp visited testing centers, laboratories, medical schools, and homes for the disabled, as well as meeting with obstetricians, geneticists, advocates for the rights of the disabled, and women who had taken the test—both those who had chosen to give birth to children with disabilities and those who chose to abort. In a review for Hypatia, Mary B. Mahowald noted that "the rich fruits of Rapp's research are evident in ample verbatim statements of various interviewees whose ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds are indicated while preserving confidentiality through use of pseudonyms. Although her frank, clear writing style is appealing in its own right, these statements enhance it considerably." Similarly, Kathryn Bondy Fessler stated in Sex Roles, "the real strength of this work is in Rapp's chronicling of the experiences of women. . . . Throughout, she is cognizant of race/ethnicity, class, religion, immigration status, and other social factors that determine women's access to reproductive technology and that influence women's decisions.
Complexity is acknowledged throughout Testing Women, Testing the Fetus,and Rapp is careful to avoid overly simplistic explanations." American Journal of Sociology contributor Adele E. Clarke called the volume "a brilliant book on the new genetics by one of the most theoretically sophisticated scholars of our time. Rapp's work makes significant and enduring contributions to multiple areas." Dana Walrath, in a review for American Anthropologist, remarked that "this text beautifully covers the traditional feminist subject of the variation of reproductive experience in contrast to putative biological universals. In addition, Rapp capably pushes this book several dimensions further and makes penetrating contributions to a rich array of other methodological and theoretical issues situating it among the deepest and most important feminist works."
In addition to her writings, Rapp has coedited several volumes, including Conceiving the New World Order: The Global Politics of Reproduction, which aimed to change the standard anthropological analyses of reproduction and emphasize the importance of reproduction to social theory. Current Anthropology contributor Maila Stivens observed "there is much of interest here, with a number of elegantly and convincingly argued chapters providing richly contextualized studies of the many dimensions of reproduction under discussion and their articulations with larger forces, including the global." She went on to note, however, that "in spite of some attention to questions of agency and cultural production, the volume perhaps needed to confront and explore the ways in which a reconceived reproduction might be theorized as central to contemporary social theory." Barbara Katz Rothman, in a review for Signs, wrote that "the strong (and thoughtful) work of the editors is felt throughout the volume, especially in the brief (one-page) introductions to each selection, which present the logic of the selections within and do the difficult work of integrating material that covers the globe and the conceptual map as well."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Anthropologist, March, 2002, Dana Walrath, review of Testing Women, Testing the Fetus: The Social Impact of Amniocentesis in America, p. 327.
American Journal of Sociology, January, 2001, Adele E. Clarke, review of Testing Women, Testing the Fetus, p. 1201.
Booklist, September 15, 1999, William Beatty, review of Testing Women, Testing the Fetus, p. 208.
Current Anthrolopogy, June, 1998, Maila Stivens, review of Conceiving the New World Order: The Global Politics of Reproduction, p. 388.
Ecologist, January-February, 1996, Jael Silliman, review of Conceiving the New World Order, p. 34.
Hypatia, summer, 2004, Mary B. Mahowald, review of Testing Women, Testing the Fetus, p. 216.
Library Journal, August, 1999, Barbar M. Bibel, review of Testing Women, Testing the Fetus, p. 128.
Population and Development Review, September, 1996, Susan Greenhalgh, review of Conceiving the New World Order, p. 582; September, 2000, Susan Greenhalgh, review of Testing Women, Testing the Fetus, p. 616.
Publishers Weekly, July 19, 1999, review of TestingWomen, Testing the Fetus, p. 172.
Sex Roles, July, 2001, Kathryn Bondy Fessler, review of Testing Women, Testing the Fetus, p. 133.
Signs, summer, 1997, Barbara Katz Rothman, review of Conceiving the New World Order, p. 1052.
Tikkun, May, 2000, Michael Berube, review of TestingWomen, Testing the Fetus, p. 73.
Women's Review of Books, June, 2000, Joanna Weinberg, review of Testing Women, Testing the Fetus, p. 21.
New York University Web site,http://www.nyu.edu/ (December 8, 2004), "Rayna Rapp."*