Durham University

Department of Anthropology

Academic Staff

Publication details for Professor Kate Hampshire

Hampshire, K.R., Blell, M.T. & Simpson, B. (2012). ‘Everybody is moving on’ Infertility, relationality and the aesthetics of family among British-Pakistani Muslims. Social Science & Medicine 74(7): 1045-1052.

Author(s) from Durham


It is now widely recognised that experiences of infertility are socially and culturally contingent. Drawing on reproductive narratives of 108 British-Pakistani Muslims living in Northeast England (collected from 2007 to 2010), we show that subjective experiences of infertility in this population can take many forms, from ‘straightforward’ childlessness to concerns about inability to fulfil a range of reproductive expectations, desires and obligations, regarding timing, gender balance and number of offspring. Extended family relations are pivotal in the processes through which reproduction (or lack thereof) becomes defined as problematic. Changing family aesthetics can thus shape individuals’ experiences of infertility in important ways. A growing emphasis on conjugal relationships for some couples offers a greater range of reproductive possibilities (enabling, for example, a period of voluntary childlessness). For others, increasing nuclearisation of family life reduces the possibilities for extended families to ‘plug the gap’ by providing proxy-children and a normalised social role for infertile couples. Moreover, such social roles may be time-limited, creating serious challenges for the long-term childless, who find themselves caught ‘betwixt and between’ two disparate sets of values.