Reconceiving surrogacy: Toward a reproductive justice account of Indian surrogacy

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My project here is to argue for situating moral judgments about Indian surrogacy in the context of Reproductive Justice. I begin by crafting the best picture of Indian sur- rogacy available to me while marking some worries I have about discursive colonialism and epistemic honesty. Western feminists’ responses to contract pregnancy fall loosely into two interrelated moments: post-BabyMdiscussions that focus on the morality of surrogacy work in Western contexts, and feminist biomedical ethnographies that focus on the lived dimensions of reproductive technologies and how they are embodied and negotiated in specific cultural contexts. Both approaches have their shortcomings. Uncritically extending Western moral frameworks (for example, liberal feminist po- litical values) to Indian surrogacy work raises the specter of discursive colonialism; with it, worries arise about how Western normative traditions can distort, erase, or misread non-Western subjects’ lived experiences. Feminist biomedical ethnographic approaches correct this, but raise the specter of a weak moral absenteeism; with it, concerns arise about under-theorizing the structural harms and injustices shaping sur- rogacy worker’s lives. I suggest that we might reduce these shortcomings by framing normative and ethnographic engagement with global surrogacy as questions of repro- ductive justice.

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  • Alison Bailey

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