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Bodies, Power and Property | Labour, Property and the Fertility Industry: Notes from Dalit and Black Feminist Thought

22.11.2023 | 16:00 - 18:00
Bodies, Power and Property, 22.11.2023

Bodies, Power and Property, 22.11.2023

Lecture series organized by Stefanie Graefe, Irina Herb, Susanne Lettow in the context of the research project Property in the human body in the context of transnational economies of reproduction.


Amrita Pande (University of Cape Town): Labour, Property and the Fertility Industry: Notes from Dalit and Black Feminist Thought

The hegemony of western ethics and liberal feminism is best captured by the singular emphasis on individual self-determination and questions of autonomy and choice in any discussions around reproduction. This primacy given to “choice” and individual rights is fundamentally based on liberal conceptions of politics. In the past decade, feminist scholars have cautioned against an excessive reliance on the rhetoric of choice because, one, it romanticizes people’s ability to make their own decisions and conceals the structures of power that shape these decisions. Two, this belief in the liberatory power of choice minimizes the responsibilities of being the bearer of such choices. In this presentation, I focus on the fertility industry (the industry for fertility treatments, repro-genetic technologies and third-party reproduction, for instance, egg and sperm donation and surrogacy), to argue that the emphasis on reproductive rights and choice, is not just analytically insufficient, it is politically inadequate in addressing issues of justice embedded in this rapidly booming industry. I am not the first one to say this – the reproductive justice movement, initiated in the 1990s by a group of Black reproductive health activists frustrated with the linear emphasis of the women’s movement on pro-choice discourses, argued that access to reproductive health services is impacted by lived and intersecting experiences based on race, gender, class and sexuality. In this presentation I connect this argument to my broader critique of the production/reproduction binary in analyzing the fertility industry. I draw from Ambedkar’s writing (particularly his writings on stigma & labour), Black feminist thought on reproductive justice and Dalit Feminism on sexual labour to argue that, for any discussion about justice to hold sway, there is an urgent need to go beyond the bioethical critique of commodification of life and instead conduct a Dalit Black feminist analysis that reveals the multiple complexities of a fundamentally stratified and highly racialized labour market.

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