Imaginaries as infrastructures? The emergence of non-invasive prenatal testing in Austria

Ingrid Metzler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

5 Citations (Scopus)


Non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) is a new technology used in prenatal testing (PT) that capitalizes on genomic platforms to transform DNA fragments in the blood of pregnant women into information about the genome of a foetus. Since its market introduction in 2011, it has travelled around the globe with remarkable speed. This article engages with the emergence of NIPT in and around Vienna, the capital city of Austria, to explore why and how this technology could travel so quickly in practice. Based on a qualitative analysis of interviews, documents, and field notes, it argues, first, that NIPT could travel so quickly because it travelled as ‘adaptable boxes’ that added on to different ‘local worlds of prenatal testing (PT)’, without disrupting them. Second, in so doing, NIPT could travel on a moral and material ground, or an ‘imaginary of PT’, built in the past. Third, the article argues that elements of this imaginary were also mobilized by commercial pioneers of NIPT, who ‘infrastructurized’ extant values, practices, and networks among biomedical professionals. Thus, various actors converged in mobilizing moral and material elements of an imaginary, transforming them into an infrastructure that facilitated the travels of NIPT, while also shaping its use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)601-626
Number of pages26
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Genomics
  • Imaginaries
  • Infrastructures
  • NIPT
  • Prenatal testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health (social science)
  • Health Policy


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