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A (Trans)national Reproductive Formation

Kumkum Sangari

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Sex selection and commercial surrogacy are practices pursued in the full glare of exposure, demystification and critique. The female-child sex ratio continues to decline while commercial surrogacy has become a fledgling (trans)national industry. Both practices produce new subjects and agents of self-directed violence, and can be tied to the inequities of ‘growth’ without redistribution. Yet sex selection is usually represented as a fixture of tradition and commercial surrogacy is recast as a libertarian story of market empowerment.

The book attempts, first, to work through and against the common perceptions, rationales and imaginaries that underwrite these practices, and to analyse the familial, social and market practices, the state policies, the agential modes and retraditionalizing processes which connect them. Second, it attempts to seize the formative conjunctions in the restructuring of patriarchal familial, state and (trans)national market regimes, and to define the confluences and contradictions between them. The argument revolves around the crystallization of a (trans)national reproductive formation grounded in conception and contraception that can be mapped on the relations between waged and non-waged domestic–procreative labour which converge in accumulation processes in the transition to a neoliberal economy. It considers the implications of post-Fordist redistributions of labour, manufacture and services, as well as of familial constraint and market emancipation. Given the transnational shaping of social reproduction, and of social and postsocial bodies, it asks if patriarchal practices can be defined solely on national or regional lines, and argues that neoliberal capitalism puts both fixities and flexibilities into play. The book shows how the implications of selective procreation extend far beyond the domestic domain, and reformulates the ground of left-feminist critique towards theorizing an ‘open contemporaneity’ that can still account for systemic structures.

Kumkum Sangari

Kumkum Sangari worked as a UGC Professorial Fellow at the Centre for Contemporary Studies, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, and is the William F. Vilas Research Professor of English and the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has published extensively on British, American and Indian literatures, literary and critical theory, religious conversion, South Asian medieval oral devotional traditions, nationalist figures such as M.K. Gandhi and Annie Besant, Bombay cinema and the partition, televisual memory, contemporary feminist art practice, as well as on personal law, domestic labour, the beauty industry, sex selection, dowry, domestic violence, widow immolation and communal violence. She is the author of Politics of the Possible: Essays on Gender, History, Narratives, Colonial English; the editor of Trace Retrace: Paintings, Nilima Sheikh; and the co-editor of Women and Culture, Recasting Women: Essays in Colonial History and From Myths to Markets: Essays on Gender.