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1 Introduction On a Sunday afternoon in the midst of monsoon season, I sat in a hotel restaurant sipping coffee with Eben,1 a Middle Eastern entrepreneur who had landed in Mumbai several days earlier. Eben’s company facilitates surrogacy arrangements in India for prospective parents from all over the world. Eben, whose daughter was born via gestational surrogacy in the United States, explained to me the core motivation for starting his company: to make gestational surrogacy a feasible option for more infertile straight couples and gay couples like him and his male partner. According to Eben, most of his clients simply couldn’t afford surrogacy in the United States, and many of them required the assistance of egg donation and preferred a white egg donor who might physically resemble them. Yet surrogacy and egg donation in India seemed daunting; many of Eben’s clients were concerned about the quality of medical care and viewed India as a chaotic, poverty-stricken Third World country. Eben thought, pragmatically, “Let’s find a way to mix the two [egg donation in the United States and surrogacy in India].” His first clients were a Middle Eastern gay couple; Eben shipped frozen sperm from one of the male partners to the United States, where doctors used it to fertilize donor eggs from a white U.S. woman, then froze and shipped the resulting embryos to India. There, Indian doctors thawed and transferred the embryos into the uterus of an Indian woman. As Eben went on to explain different aspects of his business, he noted that he does not match clients and surrogates prior to embryo transfer. Instead, doctors transfer embryos into the wombs of surrogates who happen to be prepared to undergo transfer at that time, and the commissioning parents and surrogates sign the contract only after pregnancy is confirmed. In fact, he explained, “Just today I came from a meeting with twelve pregnant surrogates for my clients. We met today and we did all these signatures [for the contracts].” As I imagined Eben in a room filled with a dozen pregnant Indian women, distributing and ex- 2 | Introduction plaining the contents of the surrogacy contracts, I thought about how this piece of paper, the contract—as well as the fetuses growing inside them—connected the surrogates to parents who lived half a world away and whom they would likely never meet. Several days later, I was sitting on the floor of Nishi’s single-room home in Nadipur,2 a city located less than forty miles outside Mumbai , snacking on samosas and sipping hot chai. Nishi, a surrogate who was then five months pregnant, proceeded to tell me about her week. She excitedly told me that several days earlier she had discovered where her commissioning parent was from: “My client is Muslim! He is from Dubai, and his name is Omar Chasan.” (Surrogates and doctors typically refer to commissioning parents as clients.) When I asked how she knew all this, she explained that she had not actually met Mr. Chasan. In fact, no one had provided her with any information about him, apart from the fact that he was a foreigner. Instead, she told me, she guessed the client’s place of origin from the name she read on the contract she had signed earlier that week. She went on to explain, “I didn’t meet the client, I met with somebody else who came to get the agreement signed. He was carrying twelve contracts with him and we were twelve surrogates in the room. He took my photograph, asked me my name, and went away.” The “guest” pressed a five hundred-rupee bill (approximately U.S.$11)3 into Nishi’s hand, took photographs of Nishi and the other surrogates, and left with the signed contracts. I had been meeting regularly with Nishi over the past several months, so I was struck by the coincidence when I realized that she must have met Eben on the day she signed the contract—the same day I met with him, one of just a few for which he would be in India. I thought about how Nishi’s narrative, like Eben’s presence and departure, revealed connections and absences—connections with a “client,” the future father of the child she was carrying, who nonetheless remained distinctly absent throughout her pregnancy and, later, recovery from childbirth via cesarean section. More connections and absences would unfold in various ways in the course of my research. That...


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MARC Record
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