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International Solidarity in reproductive justice: surrogacy and gender-inclusive polymaternalism

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Reproductive justice and gestational surrogacy are often implicitly treated as antonyms. Yet the former represents a theoretic approach that enables the long and racialised history of surrogacy (far from a new or ‘exceptional’ practice) to be appreciated as part of a struggle for ‘radical kinship’ and gender-inclusive polymaternalism. Recasting surrogacy as a dynamic contradiction in itself, full of latent possibilities relevant to early Reproductive Justice militants’ family-abolitionist aims, this article invites scholars in human geography and cognate disciplines to re-think the boundaries of surrogacy politics. As ethnographies of formal gestational workplaces, accounts of gestational workers’ self-organised resistance, and readings of the attendant public media scandals show (taking examples from India, Thailand, and New Jersey), there is no good reason to place these new economies of ‘third-party reproductive assistance’ in a ‘realm apart’ from conversations about social reproduction more generally. Surrogacy, I argue, potentially names a practice of commoning at the same time as it names a new wave of accumulation in which clinicians are capitalising on the contemporary – biogenetic-propertarian, white-supremacist – logic of kinmaking in the Global North. Ongoing experiments in the redistribution of mothering labour (‘othermothering’ in the Black feminist tradition) suggest that ‘another surrogacy is possible’, animated by what Kathi Weeks and the 1970s intervention ‘Wages Against Housework’ conceive as anti-work politics. In making this argument, the article revives the concept ‘gestational labour’ as a means of keeping the process of ‘literal’ reproduction open to transformation.
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Keywords: Care; kinmaking; postwork; reproductive justice; social reproduction; surrogacy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

Publication date: February 1, 2018

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