Race, Kinship, and Commercial Surrogacy in India
NYU Press 2016
New Books in AnthropologyNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in MedicineNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SociologyNew Books in South Asian StudiesNew Books Network June 21, 2018 Madhuri Karak
In Transnational Reproduction: Race, Kinship, and Commercial Surrogacy in India (NYU Press, 2016), Daisy Deomampo explores relationships between Indian surrogates, their families, aspiring parents from all over the world, egg donors and doctors in a setting marked by hierarchies of income, race, nationality and gender.
Based on three years of fieldwork in Mumbai, India, Deomampo shows how assisted reproductive technologies like IVF, sperm and egg donation, surrogacy and artificial insemination are not neutral scientific advances that enable parenthood, but in fact entrench “certain power relations, notions of gender, and particular constructions of the family.”
The transnational surrogacy industry is an example of “stratified reproduction”, a term first coined by Shellee Cohen in her study of female immigrant domestic workers in New York City, to understand the deeply unequal political, economic and social conditions that shape women’s reproductive labor. Deomampo approaches gestational surrogacy as a site of racialization, where actors rely on “racial reproductive imaginaries” to make sense of their relationships and family-making practices across boundaries of race, kinship and class. Writing against narratives of victimhood, Deomampo centers the creative agency exercised by surrogate women in their attempts to eke out opportunities for themselves and their families, albeit within larger structures of power.
Madhuri Karak is a Ph.D. candidate in cultural anthropology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her dissertation titled “Part-time Insurgents, Civil War and Extractive Capital in an Adivasi Frontier” explores processes of statemaking in the bauxite-rich mountains of southern Odisha, India. She tweets @madhurikarak and more of her work can be found here.