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A postcolonial framing of Indian commercial surrogacy: issues, representations, and orientalisms


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Although only legalised in 2002, Indian commercial gestational surrogacy (CGS) is an industry worth an estimated 2.3 billion USD to India at its height. Not only has this contentious topic been researched extensively from a spectrum of academic angles, representations of Indian CGS abound in both the Indian and Western popular media (novels, documentaries, films, etc.), and increasingly online, particularly in CGS websites, advertisements, and (personal) blogs. Popular media representations as well as commercial ones can often be inclined towards the sentimental and even sanctimonious, but are immensely influential in shaping public perception. This article seeks to position the discourse and representation of transnational Indian CGS more explicitly within the postcolonial framework. Thus, it addresses a theoretical gap in explicitly connecting the problematic issues of power and ethics in CGS within the paradigms of postcolonial studies, drawing also on gender and feminist frameworks. The neocolonisation of the body has been already considered to some extent – mostly in neo-liberalist contexts – but the industry’s systemically orientalistic set up and structure has been surprisingly little mentioned, particularly where transnational surrogacy is involved, with little framing of the imperialistic hangovers and undertones dogging these particular sets of international contracts. This article maps the orientalisms (and sometimes re-orientalisms) at play in this already fraught and contentious context, positioning transnational surrogacy as another instance of imperialism, as yet another form of cultural colonisation, othering, subalternising, and peripheralising working-class Indian surrogate women in the twenty-first century.

Acceptance Date Feb 23, 2018
Publication Date May 22, 2018
Journal Gender, Place and Culture: a Journal of Feminist Geography
Print ISSN 0966-369X
Publisher Routledge
Keywords commercial gestational surrogacy, India, orientalism, postcolonial, representation
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