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date: 08 May 2021

Surrogacy as Laborfree

  • Anindita MajumdarAnindita MajumdarIndian Institute of Technology(IIT Hyderabad)


This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Please check back later for the full article.

The theoretical and ethnographic conceptualization of surrogacy around the world has seen it within the prism of labor and work. Such a purported identification has a lot to do with the ways in which the practice of carrying an artificially fertilized embryo in one’s uterus for the express purpose of relinquishing the born child to the infertile couple is paradoxical to social theory. Against the universally socially exalted positioning of motherhood is the problematic practice of surrogacy, which 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.

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 often 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.