International Fertility Tourism and Surrogacy in India
In spring of 2013, I returned to India to complete field work in Anand at a surrogacy clinic. I spent several weeks there with 75 women who were in various stages of pregnancy as commercial surrogates. The voices of women who work as surrogates have not been given the same space as other aspects of the industry as of yet, and the opportunity to collaborate with scholars from different areas of research and geographical locations as well as observe the surrogacy process first hand is invaluable to investigating new information regarding women's global positions.
The fieldwork is premised in a critical feminist methodology that assumes all women are specifically situated in historical, political, social, and cultural spaces and there is no homogenous experience simply by virtue of being a woman. Feminist scholarship aims to voice the narratives of women who have been discouraged, dismissed, and ignored amid the tensions between agency and structure. This is a critical component of contemporary global feminisms, but it has taken a significant and lengthy struggle to move toward a more situated knowledge construction. By incorporating this perspective into research the study takes the ontological position that individual’s views, knowledge and stories are meaningful properties of social reality. Feminist research is grounded in experiential knowledge and is reflective. It puts women at the center, providing space for their voices and experiences. Specifically, the aim of this project is the voice the narratives of surrogate women in Gujarat. The practice of commercial surrogacy is not without controversy and the choice to work as a surrogate for compensation has brought its own challenges to these women.
Information about surrogacy remains limited outside of the areas of medical and legal specialties that focus on new reproductive technologies. Questions of choice and the construction of changing identity positions require acknowledgement that individual lived experiences are different based on their many identity locations in relation to the global marketplace. Business has been redefined with changes in technology that allow for increased trade across national borders more than ever before. In order to stay competitive as an industry it is important to identify any global audience or customer and determine how to meet their needs differently than in a solely local context. This is no different for the surrogacy industry. The largest economic benefit is coming from outside of India, and many clinics and peripheral businesses in the work of surrogacy have found a way to market and serve the needs of these foreign clients.
The stories that emerge from visits to clinics, health officials, and community organizations are timely as this global enterprise continues to grow. It is important to begin this investigation at the early stages of surrogacy’s popularity to ask critical questions and follow the trajectory of the business for years to come giving useful narrative exposure to the issues.
Assisted Reproductive Technology Narratives of Lesbian Parents
I am currently in the process of collecting family narratives from lesbian couples who have used some type of Assisted Reproductive Technology to form their family. An early version of my first paper from the study has been presented to the International communication Association Annual Conference. The construction of a “family creation story” is worthy of investigation because of its role in connecting family members and creating a sense of belonging not only to children, but also to the parents. Some attention has been paid to the adoption stories of families and its role in creating a private connection and a public bond (Harrigan, 2010). There will be great benefit to engaging a similar process to discover the function of similar stories in families who use the technological processes afforded by advances in fertility science in the last 20 years.
These interviews are taking place in Southern California, Central Florida and New York. I examine the lexical choices that partners and parents make in describing their family story. I also investigate the way parents choose to explain the process to their offspring over stages of development. This study will contribute to the growing area of interpersonal communication research that examines the changing family structures in modern culture. With a multitude of variables in the process from egg and sperm selection to birth decisions these unique narratives are an important part of the embodied rhetoric of the American family. Applying narrative theories to the exploration of identity, these birth stories will fill a gap in a field that still has a nucleocentric bias when it comes to family narratives.
Transgender Student Experiences in Central Florida
Along with a team of talented graduate students I am collecting narratives about the expereinces of transgender students here in central Florida. The study examines ways in which their identies are confirmed or challenged during their educational experience and how the facilites provide resources and support (or do not) for them during various stages of identify formation.