Reproductive Migrations: Surrogacy workers and stratified reproduction in St Petersburg
Surrogacy is an arrangement whereby a woman conceives in order to give birth to child or children for another individual or couple to raise. This thesis explores how commercial gestational surrogacy is culturally framed and socially organised in Russia and investigates the roles of the key actors. In particular it explores the experiences of surrogacy workers, including those who migrate or commute long distances within and to Russia for surrogacy work and the significance of their origin, citizenship, ethnicity and religion in shaping their experience. Ethnographic fieldwork was carried out in St Petersburg between August 2014 and May 2015 and involved semi-structured interviews, (participant) observations, informal conversations and ethnographic fieldnotes with 33 surrogacy workers, 7 client parents, 15 agency staff and 11 medical staff in medical and surrogacy agency facilities. Data were analysed using inductive ethnographic principles. A reflexive account, which includes a consideration of the utility of making one’s own emotional responses a research tool, is also included. Drawing on and expanding on Colen’s (1995) conceptual framework of stratified reproduction and Crenshaw’s (1989) analytical framework of intersectionality, this research shows that surrogacy in Russia is culturally framed and therefore socially organised as an economic exchange, which gives rise to and reinforces different forms of intersecting reproductive stratifications. These stratifications include biological, social, geographic, geo-political and ethnic dimensions. Of particular novelty is the extension of Colen’s framework to address geographic and geo political stratifications. This was based on the finding that some women (temporarily) migrate or commute (over long distances) to work as gestational carriers. The thesis also demonstrates how an economic framing of surrogacy induced surrogacy workers to understand surrogacy gestation as work, which influenced their relationships with client parents. Given the rapid global increase in the use of surrogacy and its increasingly internationalised nature, this research into the social organisation of commercial gestational surrogacy in Russia is timely and has implications for users, medical practitioners and regulators, as well as researchers concerned with (cross-border) surrogacy and reproductive justice.
- PhD