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date: 29 March 2023

Surrogacy as Laborlocked

Surrogacy as Laborlocked

  • Anindita MajumdarAnindita MajumdarIndian Institute of Technology(IIT Hyderabad)


Surrogacy as labor is an important theoretical idea within anthropology. Emerging from ethnographic and feminist engagement, surrogacy or the practice of a woman gestating an artificially or naturally conceived fetus in her uterus for an infertile or childless couple, with the promise of compensation or a gesture of “gift-giving,” has been controversial. The idea of motherhood as a form of labor is especially under scrutiny within the practice of surrogacy as it becomes technologically supported through in-vitro fertilization and other forms of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) and begins to be global. Against the universally socially exalted positioning of motherhood, the problematic practice of surrogacy defies social conventions. Thus, surrogacy as labor is a difficult proposition socially and morally, bringing forth questions regarding “body work” and intimate labor—all of which are represented within the practice of surrogacy.

As a field of enquiry, surrogacy as labor includes theoretical and ethnographic engagements regarding the rise of transnational surrogacy and the “hiring” of women from the Global South by couples from the Global North, and what this has meant for pregnancy, birthing, and ART. Most importantly, labor and motherhood are enmeshed in this complicated narrative of family-making that involves the intermixture of race, culture, and commerce in an uneasy relationship. In thinking through the understanding of surrogacy as labor, it is important to trace its linkages with kinship, family, commerce, and medicine. Thus, surrogacy as labor is analyzed within the following themes: as linked to other forms of precarious labor that are also enmeshed in the “hostile worlds” of money and intimacy (such as sex work and domestic labor); as a process of kin-making; and as the most legislated form of work, globally.


  • Sociocultural Anthropology

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