ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Feminist Periscoping into Research on the Surrogacy Industry in India

In this article, the author lays out her decision to lean on “feminist periscoping,” a methodological approach developed by the feminist geographer Nancy Hiemstra, to conduct her field research in India. The author then discusses the ways in which this feminist methodology proved to be useful in studying difficult-to-access subjects and spaces and the insights she gained by adopting a periscoping strategy.

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This artiy dissertation project studies the Indian surrogacy industry and it aimed to examine the Indian government’s claim thcle is a methodological reflection on how I conducted my dissertation research during the COVID-19 pandemic in India. Mat the 2015 transnational commercial surrogacy ban would protect surrogates from exp­loitation. My initial research plan was to conduct an ethnography (in-person interviews and participant observation) with key surrogacy stakeholders: fertility clinic personnel, infertile individuals/cou­ples, and surrogates in New Delhi to compare and contrast the lived realities with the claims of the Indian government. However, the pandemic foiled my original research agenda of ethnography. By adopting a periscoping methodological approach, I was able to not only continue my research but also gain insights about the Indian surrogacy industry.

In addition to documenting the different stakes of each surrogacy stakeholder, I wanted to examine how infertility and assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs, technologies that assist in conception) were discursively framed and defined in both Indian state policies and the feminist movement. For this, I needed to conduct archival research with legal documents produced by the Indian government (drafts of policy bills on ART and surrogacy, parliamentary committee reports and court hearings) at the Parliament and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) libraries in New Delhi, as well as analyse feminist documents (reports and publications) produced by two feminist organisations in New Delhi: Sama and the United Nations Population Fund Asia (UNFPA). However, strict prohibitions on international travel in the United States (US) as well as in India meant that I could not conduct archival research or conduct ­in-person interviews with feminist acti­vists at Sama and UNFPA in New Delhi until restrictions were lifted.

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Updated On : 11th Jun, 2022
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