Women's and Mothers' Labor : the Stakes of Surrogacy
Abstr. due: 01.09.2016
Dates: 08.03.17 — 10.03.17
Organizing comittee e-mail: email@example.com.
Organizers: Department of Philosophy, Université de Grenoble
Research works dealing with surrogacy, whether in France or in the English-speaking world, pertain to several fields in human and social sciences : philosophy, sociology, anthropology, psychology, law, bioethics, gender and postcolonial studies. Such interdisciplinarity does not prevent one from bringing out major analytical thrusts which allow to carry reflection out of the tracks of a mere adversarial debate. This one was typical of the first generation of the academic literature upon surrogacy, mainly concerned with the moral legitimacy of a commercial commodifying of women’s reproductive labour within Western countries. While having put forth fruitful internal disagreements between feminists, this « for and against » debate has often been committed to conceptual and normative categories regarded as self-evident and used without considering the close interdependence, at social, economical and political levels, between the various actors involved in the now transborder traffic of reproductive labor. By contrast, the literature’s second generation connects the normative reflection with its political and geopolitical stakes in terms of justice. Its assumption is that the global division of reproductive labor generally and especially of surrogacy requires, for its accurate description and evaluation, a reconfiguration of these very categories. This is notably the case for the concepts of autonomy and vulnerability, of labour and responsibility, of motherhood and parentage. The present conference, which will be the first scientific event of this kind taking place in France, correspondingly aims at bringing together researchers with expertise upon surrogacy from different disciplinary fields as well as from different cultural, socio-economical and legal contexts, in order to question, assess and elaborate such reconfiguration. It is structured around three distinct topics, which the proposals must connect with.
1st topic : Ethical stakes of surrogacy
Ethical stakes, concerning the surrogates’ consent, are formulated in line with the feminist critique of the liberal principle of autonomy in biomedical ethics, which is accused of being too « thin » to take into account the constraints women’s reproductive choices are faced with. Such critique is however double-egged, for it can paradoxically be conducive of women’s agency discounting and lead to the legitimation of paternalistic policies. As a consequence, the acknowledgment of their oppression and vulnerability benefits the traditional and patriarcal control of their bodies and reproductive capacities. As surrogacy makes this paradox especially acute, it requires to articulate afresh the concepts of reproductive autonomy and of social autonomy, but also to rethink the critical value of the oppression and vulnerability arguments. In contemporary moral psychology, this twofold requirement gets tied up in the problem of adaptive preferences (as initially shaped by Jon Elster and renewed by Amartya Sen). While not excluding other ethical questions, the conference will give priority to this central issue within the feminist debate about the moral acceptability of surrogacy.
2nd topic : Social and political stakes of surrogacy
Whereas surrogacy is usually construed as implying the commodification of a part of one’s body, the analysis through the prism of labour helps to avoid moralizing the issue. Instead, surrogacy falls within the care work which cuts across the domestic and market spheres and participates into reproducing gender, class and race inequalities. Materialist feminism had already brought out, in the 1970s, the limits of the marxist division between reproductive and productive work. Surrogacy, when conceived of as an affective and biological type of labor whose product is human life, problematizes the idea of reproductive labor itself and challenges an unprecedented mode of capitalistic valorization. The recognition of the surrogate’s work as being incommensurable with such valorization seems in turn to require the implementation of a relational but asymmetric concept of responsibility (as developed by Robert Goodin and Iris Marion Young). Indeed, the classic notions of causal, moral and legal responsibility are unsuited to cope with the situations of injustice which the transnational movement of care labour gives rise to and which the conference will map and analyze.
3rd topic : Anthropological stakes of surrogacy
In its modern form, surrogacy potentially implies three physically and legally distinct mothers : genetic, gestational and social. Such unfolding of motherhood calls into question three naturalistic anthropological paradigms : that of human reproduction, that of parentage and that of sex difference. In tune with other techniques of assisted reproduction but with a heavier symbolic burden dependent upon a normative psychology of pregnancy, surrogacy compels us to historicize these paradigms, to question the ways they are legally enforced and to rethink the opposition of nature and artefact. Whereas those reflections have already been pursued in various trends of the anthropology of reproduction (for instance in the works of Helena Ragoné and Paola Tabet), they are currently pushed forward by the spread of biotechnologies. In this regard, the conference shall notably consider the heuristic value of surrogacy as anticipating the disruptions in our representations of motherhood yield by their future developments, and notably by the achievement of opportunities for ectogenesis or « artificial wombs ».
Conference Web-Site: http://philevents.org/event/show/23398