Diane M. Tober

Assistant Adjunct Professor of Nursing, University of California, San Francisco

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About Diane

Tober’s research focuses on the intersections between bioethics, reproductive health and technologies, inequality, and the commodification of the body. Her geographic areas of expertise include the United States, Iran, Spain, and the Middle East. Her research includes ethnographic work on the US sperm-banking industry, on single women and lesbian couples choosing sperm donors to create their families, on kidney sales in Islamic Republic of Iran, and the politics of family planning promotion and use among Afghan refugees and low-income Iranians in Iran.

In the News

Diane M. Tober's research on data around egg donors discussed by Paris Martineau, "Inside the Quietly Lucrative Business of Donating Human Eggs," Wired, April 23, 2019.
"What to Think about When Considering Donating Your Eggs," Diane M. Tober, Rewire News, March 16, 2017.
"The Politics of Women's Eggs," Diane M. Tober, UnDark, June 10, 2016.
"Designer Genes," Diane M. Tober, Psychology Today, January 21, 2016.


"“Fewer Children, Better Life” or “As Many as God Wants”?" (with Mohammad Hossein Taghdisi and Mohammad Jalali). Medical Anthropology Quarterly 20, no. 1 (2008): 50-71.

Explores how Iran's family-planning program is differentially perceived and utilized among low-income Iranian and Afghan refugee families in rural and urban locations. Particular attention is given to how different interpretations of Islam may or may not influence reproductive health-related behaviors and how cultural factors influence reproductive strategies. 

"Kidneys and Controversies in the Islamic Republic of Iran: The Case of Organ Sale" Body & Security 13, no. 3 (2007): 151-170.

Investigates Islamic discourse, perceptions of life, death and the body, and the case of organ sale/donation in Iran, drawing on fundamental religious and ethical debates within the country, as well as interviews and observations in an Iranian transplant center. Iran is the only official Shi’a Islamic country, with Ithna-Ashari, or Twelver Shi’ism, as the dominant form. For various reasons, in part due to the interpretive approach to jurisprudence in Ithna-Ashari Shi’ism, but also due to other aspects of Iranian culture, the Iranian approach to medical science and technology is dramatically different from that in most other Islamic countries.

"“My Body Is Broken Like My Country”: Identity, Nation, and Repatriation among Afghan Refugees in Iran" Iranian Studies 40, no. 2 (2007): 263-285.

Examines how Afghans who access Iran's health services interpret health and family planning education in the face of Iran's repatriation efforts and increased social tension. Further, investigates divergent views toward Afghan repatriation and notions of home, self, and identity. Ultimately, this paper addresses the various borders—physical, national, ethnic, religious, gendered, urban/rural—and how these borders can be redefined through the refugee experience, leaving hope for the future.

"Semen as Gift, Semen as Goods: Reproductive Workers and the Market in Altruism" Body & Society 7, no. 2 (2001): 137-160.

Examines how perceptions of what semen is thought to contain affect its value as a marketable product. Explores how donor altruism, intelligence and ethnicity traits thought to be transmitted in sperm are perceived and transacted among representatives of the sperm banking industry, as well as among women who purchase semen for insemination and show how the linkages between the reproductive industry and the sex industry further heighten the commodity-quality of semen donation. Argues that the emphasis placed on altruism is an attempt to redefine the commodity quality of semen as gift, in order to imbue it with higher emotional and moral value.