Disruptive Embodiments: An ethnography of risks and failures during commercial surrogacy in India
The broader objective of this book lies in providing an ethnographic description of the actors’ experiences with risks and failures. It correlates the actors’ approach towards risks and uncertainties with their experiences of failures. By discussing risks and failures simultaneously, this book aims to present the significance of studying disruptions in order to gain a holistic insight of the process of surrogacy, along with its accompanying power dynamics. It proposes to demonstrate why study of disruptions is important to theorise surrogacy or develop any ethical and legal frames for it.
Since surrogacy becomes the last resort for the surrogates to better their lives and for the intended parents to attain fertility, their desperation to succeed makes them even more emotionally vulnerable to face failure. Through my empirical data, the aim of this book is to demonstrate how the narrative of success created by the surrogacy industry keeps the surrogates and the intended parents’ focus away from the uncertainties and risks involved. Therefore, this book argues that disruptions are those instances, which become the weakest link of the entire surrogacy process as they lay bare its key actors vulnerable and create opportunities for ethical lapses. With particular emphasis on disruptions, this book explores the relational dynamics between different actors and their affective encounters. It examines how actors perceive the risks and uncertainties attached to the process of surrogacy and then deal with them once faced with any disruption. In order to do so, I analyse the ongoing interactions between the actors, technology, and the market through subsequent stages of surrogacy by taking into consideration certain pre-conception and post-conception disruptions. By ‘pre-conception’ stage, I refer to the medicalised definition of pre-conception within the ART discourse where a pregnancy conception takes place through the conscious act of transfer of fertilised embryo(s) into the uterus. This encompasses the entire preparatory phase involved in commercial surrogacy including screening, selection, tests, fertilisation, incubation and freezing of embryos and transfer. All steps contributing to the materialisation of a pregnancy conception are referred to as the pre-conception stage. By post-conception, I refer to the stage from pregnancy conception until childbirth. This book thus aims to provide a spatiotemporal insight of surrogacy experiences.
Sayani Mitra is a postdoctoral research associate working on Dr. Lucy Firth's Wellcome Trust funded project titled 'Global Perspective on the governance of Assisted Reproductive Technologies'. She is a sociologist with expertise in social studies of biotechnologies, ethics of reproductive technologies, global health, comparative health research, political economy and South Asian Studies. Before joining Liverpool, Sayani was a postdoctoral researcher in the OPARA Project (Organised patient participation in healthcare) at the Institute of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine, Goettingen, Germany.
She received her PhD from the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Göttingen, Germany being based at the Institute of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine. She was awarded the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) PhD. fellowship (2013-17) to carry out this doctoral research. Her PhD. thesis titled ‘Disruptive embodiments: a study of risks and failures during commercial surrogacy in India' examined the seldom discussed aspects of risks and disruptions during commercial surrogacy practices in India. This thesis was awarded the best PhD thesis prize for the year 2017 by the University of Goettingen. She has published her research in peer-reviewed journals and has recently edited a book titled ‘Cross-Cultural Comparisons on Surrogacy and Egg Donation: Interdisciplinary perspectives from India, Germany and Israel (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018).