Making a living by making life

Trans-/national Surrogacy and the Becoming of Ethical Subjects in Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union

Veronika Siegl

Assisted reproduction is increasingly evolving into an inter- and transnational endeavour that simultaneously reflects and challenges existing power relations by creating new kinds of labour and new forms of relatedness at the intersection of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, age, and class, among others. These global and local movements and developments have triggered a heated debate about the ethics of assisted reproduction in general, and surrogacy in particular – A debate that centres on different notions of rights and wrongs, examining the relation between choice and coercion, between individual and structure, gift and commodity, nature and technology, between the doable and its limits. In following what is perceived as utmost desire or existential need, both intended parents and surrogate workers often find themselves confronted with a judgmental critique of their actions. While the former are stigmatised due to their infertility and accused of exploiting women, the latter are reproached for selling their bodies or their children.

Taking the different forms of precariousness on both sides and the social discourses about surrogacy as a starting point, this research project explores the moral dimensions of the intimate, the emotional and the market in the context of trans-/national surrogacy in Russia and Ukraine – countries that have become popular destinations for “reproductive travellers” from EU-countries. In capturing the experiences of the different actors involved – surrogates, intended parents, medics, agents, lawyers, etc. –, this sub-project scrutinizes the way morals and values are employed to make sense of, judge, legitimise and govern the intimate relations produced in the transnational sphere of surrogacy. The project aims to shed light on individual and collective moralities and asks how actors become and are made into “ethical subjects” while involved in an activity that is often socially framed as highly unethical.

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