The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) provides medical care for some of the most unwell newborns, including those born premature. Infants born prior to 28 completed weeks gestation, classified as extremely premature, often require long admissions and close management. These infants, and those who care for them, occupy a unique position of flux. The extremely premature body is not only a locus for clinical dialogue on the reach of biomedicine, but also for wider debates over the personhood of those born at the edge of viability. This thesis is an ethnographic account of some of the ways in which neonatal personhood was strategically articulated in the NICU at various points of the infant's stay. These articulations, neither contingent nor dependent on the infant's clinical position, illustrate a multiplicity of relational personhoods that exist alongside, and sometimes at tension with, individualised dynamics of care and emotion between infants, parents, and staff. I conducted over one year of ethnographic fieldwork, including six months of intensive participant observation at a single urban unit, and over 50 ethnographic interviews across New Zealand with a variety of individuals, such as NICU parents and staff. A portion of this thesis is also comprised of autoethnographic vignettes that account for my own neonatal journey and position in the field.
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