Lecture: Reproductive Labour – Exceptional for Whom? Notes from Mumbai

Tuesday 22 March 2016, 18.30

Edmond J Safra Lecture Theatre, Ground Floor, King’s Building, Strand Campus

Wine reception to follow: Chapters, 2nd Floor, King’s Building, Strand Campus

In this lecture Professor Parry examines the recent expansion of commercial assisted reproductive services in India. In a country as populous as India it is surprising to note that the provision of such services to those who are unable to have children without such assistance had grown exponentially over the past decade with the number of clinics more than doubling over the past three years.  This expansion has been accompanied by a similarly explosive growth in populist narratives that assert that one of the services offered by such clinics, gestational surrogacy, in which usually poor women are paid to carry a foetus to term, is a form of labour that is exceptional(ly)exploitative and should thus be banned. Although superficially compelling, such arguments have only rarely been subject to critical review. Utilising insights from anthropology, the history of science and law Professor Parry takes up the challenge of  unpacking and complicating this narrative by posing the question “reproductive labour: exceptional for whom?”

In dissecting this argument she raises a number of queries: How and in what ways is reproductive labour distinguished from other forms of bodily or affective labour? What racial or gender dynamics have led Indian reproductive labourers to be so maligned and how might their work be more productively conceptualised? What role can regulation perform in this context and what might it hope to achieve? Bringing to bear the findings of her extended fieldwork in Mumbai and Jaipur she argues that such practices cannot be adjudged by simply applying universal ethical principles and norms, but must, rather, be assessed through nuanced conceptualisation based on grounded empirical research that takes account of the complexity of the lived experience of all the participants placed in their sociological and geographical contexts.

All are welcome. Register for this lecture here:  Bronwyn Parry Inaugural Lecture

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