Childlessness in the Age of Communication : Deconstructing Silence book cover
1st Edition

Childlessness in the Age of Communication
Deconstructing Silence

ISBN 9780367409944
Published April 7, 2020 by Routledge
284 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Cristina Archetti started researching childlessness after being diagnosed with "unexplained infertility". She soon discovered that, although involuntary childlessness affects an increasing number of women and men across the world, this topic is shrouded taboo and shame. This book is both a first-person reflection about the existential questions posed by involuntary childlessness and a readable account of the way the silence surrounding this topic is socially and politically constructed.

Revealing the invisible mechanisms that, from the microscopic details of everyday life to policy, make up the structure of silence around childlessness, Archetti demonstrates what it means not to have children in a society that is organized around families. Through a prose that mixes analysis, excerpts of interviews, media fragments, and evocative writing, she develops a new language of feeling-in-the-body fit for the twenty-first century and exposes the devastating effects infertility has on relationships, identity, health and well-being, in societies that fetishize parenthood.

Childlessness in the Age of Communication draws upon a range of disciplines and fields including sociology, health, gender and sexuality studies, communication, politics and anthropology. It is a book for all those interested in childlessness and innovative qualitative research methodologies.



Table of Contents

Introduction: Breaking the Silence Part 1: Unravelling Silence Section 1. T-word: The Story Behind my Story Section 2. The Body and Communication Section 3. What My Story Brings to the Debate Section 4. Silence, Deconstructed Section 5. Revealing the Unspeakable: Finding a Different Language Part 2: Life Journeys Folder 1. “About Me”? Folder 2. Relationships Folder 3. Identity Folder 4. Objects and the Body Folder 5. Media, Social Wallpaper and the Cycle of Silence Folder 6. Narratives I: An Old Story Begins to Fall Apart Folder 7. Politics: Why Childlessness is Everyone’s Business Folder 8. Narratives II: What It Takes to Weave a New Story Conclusion: Roadmap for the Foreseeable Futures

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Cristina Archetti is Professor of Political Communication and Journalism at the University of Oslo, Norway.


"A powerful text. Archetti skilfully blends a deeply personal story with robust enquiry into the meaning and experience of involuntary childlessness. Weaving together personal diaries, interviews, poetry and analysis of contemporary media Childlessness in the age of communication: Deconstructing silence offers an innovative format that is eminently readable. The book illuminates an otherwise hidden topic and as a result it will be of interest to researchers, practitioners and those experiencing involuntary childlessness alike." Dr Esmée Hanna, Centre for Reproduction Research, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK.

"Cristina Archetti’s book melds together the personal and political to produce an academic tour-de-force which will put the study of involuntary childlessness firmly onto the radar of scholars and policymakers everywhere. Archetti has created a sustained piece of ‘sensuous scholarship’, both passionate and erudite in its exploration of the cultural communication mechanisms that silence childlessness and reinforce an antiquated pronatalist ideology. She illuminates society’s blind spots around involuntary childlessness, showing how these fuel daily microaggressions against adults without children. An important, humane and hopeful book, it outlines what we can all do to create a more diverse and tolerant culture that recognises the contributions individuals without children make to a healthy civil society." — Jody Day, psychotherapist, founder of Gateway Women (, and author of Living the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfilling Future Without Children.

"This book makes for interesting and engaging reading for researchers across the social sciences and humanities and also for healthcare practitioners. The creative autoethnographic story of the social, emotional and embodied experience of childlessness is powerful, enlightening and scholarly."Professor Gayle Letherby, University of Plymouth, UK

"This book is a perfect reading both for those who are experiencing problems in family-building and for researchers in the field. The author puts childlessness in social and cultural context, expressed via individual experiences, both of her own and many others. The combination of perspectives, her analyses and the creative writing style contribute to our understanding of childlessness in a way that I have never encountered before."Anders Möller, Professor Emeritus, Ersta Sköndal Bräcke University College, Stockholm, Sweden.

"This book captures the lived experience of people without children, revealing the political, social and personal chaos of involuntary childlessness. The threads of the analysis are pulled from a wide range of fields: demography, social sciences, philosophy, communication, and media studies. Woven through the multi-layered embroidery are the highs and lows of Cristina’s experience—not only related to fertility treatment, but also to conducting research on a very sensitive subject. The final tapestry is an evocative, deeply moving, sincere, and thought provoking tour de force."Dr Robin Hadley, founding member of Ageing Without Children (AWOC), and independent researcher on male childlessness and ageing, UK.

"The intrinsic worth of a woman, in our society, is still rooted in her role as a mother. Archetti reveals how being childless is a battle of learning to accept a "life never imagined" against a daily onslaught of messages coming from the media and society, which suggest that not having children is "less than." I hope that academics, reporters, politicians, and those who (most often without realizing it) dismiss, undervalue and misrepresent the childless read and take the time to understand not just the words of this book, but also those that remain unspoken."Stephanie Phillips, founder, World Childless Week (

"A life without becoming a parent is being treated by society as a disaster, yet society tends to ignore and silence the deepest meanings of how childlessness might be experienced as an existential crisis from the point of view of those who are affected by it. Archetti's book is a blessed and needed invitation to look at the world from her and their eyes, through a bright and thorough analysis of involuntary childlessness. In a highly sensitive manner, she unfolds the hidden sides of being unable to reach an agreed social hallmark. Her book is a window to the lives of ‘others’ and, at the same time, a mirror to ‘ours.’"Dr Orna Donath, Tel Aviv University, Ben Gurion University, and the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel. Author of Regretting motherhood.

"Archetti has written an informed, inspiring and important book. Breaking the silence on the subject of childlessness in the modern world through the prism of her own personal story and academic study, it sheds a shining light on one of the most pressing subjects for women today." – Jessica Hepburn, founder of Fertility Fest ( and author of The pursuit of motherhood (2014) and 21 Miles: Swimming in search of the meaning of motherhood (2018).