What's 'doux' about 'doux Commerce'? the Case of Surrogacy
Samantha Ashenden, Birkbeck College, University of London
Practices of kinship are currently being re-written by the development of markets in reproductive technologies and associated services and by transformations in legally recognised family forms. In particular, the emergence of international commercial surrogacy has raised a number of legal and ethical concerns: many assert that making people should not be the result of market transactions, and many states attempt to proscribe commercial surrogacy specifically because it is seen to undermine the dignity of women and children.
This paper examines the apparent contradiction between markets and morals thrown up by commercial surrogacy. It does so both by looking at practices of family formation historically, and by exploring the idea that altruism can be clearly distinguished from commerce in this set of practices in the present. Historically, marriage as alliance made kinship part of an economic calculus. In the present the idea that altruism and commerce stand opposed to each other undergirds opposition to commercial surrogacy in the idea that women working as surrogates are engaged in ‘exceptional’ labour.
In the paper this new nexus of relations is investigated by looking in detail at a number of recent cases in which a commercial market in surrogacy and the normative horizons of states have come into direct conflict.