Approaching my final project has been a daunting task, I now know that I want to look at some aspect of transnational surrogacy, however finding an appropriate entry point into this topic is proving difficult. There are so many different possible approaches. A feminist orientation, which views transnational reproduction as a form of reproductive labor, would allow me to examine the gender relations which underpin this phenomenon. While a post-colonial outlook might better capture the global and racialized inequalities, the enduring legacy of imperialism, which serve to justify transnational surrogacy and the commodification of human beings. A micro-historical approach would allow me to look more closely at the impact these global processes have on specific places and people. On the other hand, by examining the legal and institutional frameworks in which these processes operate, I may be in a better position to trace the connections that exist between different sites of transnational surrogacy. These are just a few of the many thoughts running through my head. 

In my preliminary research, I have looked at Daisy Deomampo’s Transnational Reproduction: Race, Kinship, and Commercial Surrogacy in India, and will use this text as a jumping off point for further study. Based on extensive field work and interviews of a diverse set of agents involved in the process of transnational gestational surrogacy in India, Deomampo examines transnational reproduction as a social formation which reinforces stratification. She looks at the racial reproductive imaginaries which prop up the unequal relations that characterize transnational surrogacy. Deomampo opens her book with anecdotes from her field work, her comments on a middle eastern entrepreneur whose company facilities surrogacy arrangements frame transnational surrogacy as a practice which benefits both surrogate and intended parents, however she quickly turns this assertion on its head by analyzing the aspects of transnational surrogacy which construct surrogates as racial Others who have inherently high risk pregnancies. Deomampo does a particularly good job of describing the transnational orientation of the global phenomenon of surrogacy. She describes meeting South African women who travelled to India to donate their eggs, these eggs would most likely then be placed in the uteruses of Indian women, who would deliver these babies for parents who most of the time hailed from countries located in the global north. Deomampo highlights the global connections which link disperate people all over the world, and has shown me how well suited this topic is for a transnational approach. 

Another source I found incredibly interesting was an article written by Emma Lamberton, “Lessons from Ukraine: Shifting International Surrogacy Policy to Protect Women and Children.” Written a few years after Deomampo’s book, Lamberton’s piece is a reaction to the rise in surrogacy in Ukraine following its banning in India, Thailand and Nepal due to human rights violations. She notes that the Ukraine holds over a quarter of the global surrogacy market, most of which is facilitated through a private, for-profit company called Biotexcom. This company has been able to escape governmental oversight due to the technicality that the company is not registered in Ukraine. Unencumbered by humans rights or legal considerations, this company has taken advantage of the six billion US dollar market of reproductive labor. Lamberton calls for policy implementation based on the Hague Conference’s Experts’ Group on the Parentage/Surrogacy Project in order to safeguard prospective parents, children, and their surrogate mothers. She notes that children born from surrogacy are not recognized as citizens of their birth country, which means that they are not eligible for adoption. In cases where prospective parents abandon their children created through surrogacy, often because they have disabilities, these children are essentially state-less by law and located in countries which oftentimes do not have the resources to cope with their disabilities. I am just beginning to wrap my head around this, but I am sure of one thing, this is an incredibly upsetting realisation. How is it possible that the international community has not done something to restore the rights of citizenship for these newborns? 

Highlighting two very different aspects of the phenomenon of transnational surrogacy, these two contributions have allowed me to consider the impacts of transnational surrogacy at the individual level as well as the societal level. Although I am still not sure exactly in what direction my project will go, after examining these sources and a few others, I am very excited to see where it takes me!

Preliminary Reading and Realizations