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Conceptualizing Surrogacy as Work-Labour

Anindita Majumdar

Journal of South Asian Development, 2018, vol. 13, issue 2, 210-227

Abstract: Using ethnographic findings, this article reflects on Indian women engaged in commercial surrogacy for foreign and Indian couples and expands on the existing ideas of paid and unpaid employment by conceptualizing transnational commercial surrogacy in India. The latter is undertaken through a mapping of the meanings surrogates and intended couples make of their participation in the transnational commercial surrogacy arrangement. Here, ideas about motherhood, domesticity and contractual labour come together to create an understanding of the unique role of surrogates in the arrangement. While emerging research has aimed to conceptualize the surrogate’s contribution through differing theoretical understandings of work and labour, my ethnographic findings suggest that surrogacy and its linkages with paid work are more complex than conveyed by its researched connections with care work and/or sex work. Invoking established theorizing of sexualized care work and reproductive choice, I point to the need for a deeper engagement with the idea of work-labour itself. Within this wider conceptualization are social categories that mediate between commerce and intimacy—including that of the paid domestic worker. By using frames used to study paid domestic work in India and South Asia, I portray surrogacy and the commercial surrogate through notions of domesticity, family and intimacy paying particular attention to its linkages with paid work.

Keywords: Transnational commercial surrogacy; South Asia; surrogates; domestic workers; intimate care work (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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