In his article, “Spatializing Transnational History: European Spaces and Territories”, Ángel Alcalde outlines the two main epistemological approaches to the problem of space in transnational history: a constructivist approach detached from geographical determinism, and one which combines different scales of analysis without challenging established definitions of space. This later approach is one which I believe will be useful in conceptualizing transnational reproduction in all the diseparate social and political spaces that it operates within and through. Alcalde highlights a distinction between borders and frontiers, the former being formal demarcations of ownership and the latter being zones where social systems come into contact. For my purposes, this can be applied to human beings in that intending parents who travel to a foreign country to receive their baby born from surrogacy, cross a physical border but perhaps more importantly, they encounter a frontier where the socio-political tendencies of their home country interact with those of the country where their surrogate resides. This becomes clear when one looks at the incompatible legal frameworks in different countries which affect the degree of difficulty intending parents have in obtaining a passport for their child born of surrogacy, as well as the socio-cultural considerations which shape how people in different places view transnational reproduction. The space in which transnational reproduction operates is inherently constructed both transnationally and historically, by rules and regulations set by different nations, on one hand, and by social and cultural specificities on the other.
Alcalde draws on Muller and Torp’s (2009) conception of transnational spaces to explain how space is a functional category constructed through economic, social, cultural or political interactions which acquires meaning in relation to a set of perceptions and interests in a given context. In my research, the transnational space which I am looking at are all those locations throughout the globe which are involved in the process of transnational reproduction, as well as the localized spaces which take on a global character due to the intersection of different people, beliefs, legal precedents, and economic interests. Alcalde also mentions an article by Struck, Ferris, and Revel (2011) in which the authors advocate a focus on micro-scales in transnational research because these processes are often best “felt” at the local or individual level. I believe this point is particularly important for my research due to the important ethical considerations which arise when talking about transnational reproduction. In my research so far I have gained important insights by reading articles and books and by watching documentaries on individuals’ experience with transnational reproduction. It it my hope that the final product of my research will not only offer some interesting insights into the phenomenon of transnational reproduction, but also do justice to the people directly affected by it , especially those who are most vulnerable and have the least agency in this process: the surrogate mothers and the babies they produce. This blog post should serve as a starting point for my short essay, in which I would like to tease out some of the methodological considerations which will determine how I write my own transnational history of transnational reproduction. Although the topic necessitates a transnational lens, the methodology is less clear, and I believe that devoting this short essay to this topic will allow me to formulate a coherent plan of action for tackling the final project/essay.