The affective economy of transnational surrogacy

Schurr, Carolin; Militz, Elisabeth (2018). The affective economy of transnational surrogacy. Environment and planning. A, Economy and space, 50(8), pp. 1626-1645. Sage 10.1177/0308518X18769652

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The booming business of global surrogacy has come to a halt: one surrogacy hub after the other has started to regulate the incremental flow of intended parents to the Global South hoping to fulfill their desire for a baby with the help of a foreign surrogate laborer. Thailand and Nepal have banned surrogacy altogether; India and Mexico insist on the altruistic nature of their surrogacy arrangements. As the drive for altruistic surrogacy suggests, the baby holds an exceptional position in many societies: ideas about the ‘unique’ maternal bond create public unease about the commercialization of babies in surrogacy markets. Drawing on economic sociology and theories of affect, this paper argues that multiple processes of affective attachment, detachment and reattachment shape transnational surrogacy journeys. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Mexico’s surrogacy industry, the paper studies processes of commodification and decommodification in three instances of market-making: (1) the assignment of value and a price to reproductive laborers’ bodies on the basis of affective postcolonial geographies of beauty; (2) the affective/effective organization of the market encounter through contracts and communication rules and (3) the detachment of the final ‘good’ of the baby from the surrogate laborer. Transnational surrogacy arrangements, the paper concludes, are always forms of partial commodification – no matter whether they are framed as altruistic or commercial – because processes of affective/effective attachment and detachment are fundamental for delineating the intimate boundaries of families that come into life with the assistance of the globally operating surrogacy industry.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Human Geography
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Human Geography > Unit Cultural Geography

UniBE Contributor:

Schurr, Carolin and Militz, Elisabeth


900 History > 910 Geography & travel
700 Arts > 710 Landscaping & area planning
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 330 Economics








Julian Spycher

Date Deposited:

10 Sep 2018 12:36

Last Modified:

22 Oct 2019 17:10

Publisher DOI:





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