Whose body, whose nation? Surrogate motherhood and its representation

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Abstract

This article explores surrogate motherhood as an instance of how women's rights of belonging to nations are repeatedly sexed and racialized. Feminist theorists have rightly critiqued the reification of women's reproductive capacities within nationalist discourse and have begun to explore how maternity operates as the grounds for women's inclusion and exclusion from the nation. I argue that surrogate motherhood vividly demonstrates how nation states police the composition of the nation through legislative powers over women's reproduction. In doing so, they situate women, on the basis of their fertility, as competing bearers of a nation that grants them symbolic worth but inequitable power on the basis of their embodiment. This paradox is then traced in the narrativization of surrogacy in feminist, theological and legal texts. In particular, the Internet-based advertisements of law firms and agencies are taken as case studies that vividly demonstrate how embodiment and belonging need to be carefully negotiated in the representation of surrogate motherhood to different participants. Racial, sexual and classed hierarchies of power are seen to be operating in these texts and the stories they tell and visually represent. From this understanding, I move to an assessment of how surrogate motherhood operates within modernity's investment in bodies as signs of truth that fallaciously hold the potential to guarantee origins and belongings. I conclude with an analysis of literary and visual texts selected because they deliberately seek to problematize this logic, which they nevertheless fail to escape.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)352-342
JournalEuropean Journal of Cultural Studies
Volume5
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2002

Keywords

  • Atwood
  • belonging
  • embodiement
  • narrative
  • race
  • Serrano

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