2018 round-up | help @reproutopia eat on tour

Gentle reader,

I’m writing several things at the moment: about care; about xenofeminism; about ectogenesis; and about disaster communism and cyborg ecology. Next week, my take on Kristen Ghodsee’s (terrible, in my opinion) Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism will go live at The New Inquiry, and I will be talking about amniotechnics over the telephone to a telephone-based gallery event in Nottingham about ‘Matter in Flux‘.

Most excitingly: this year, on May 7th, my book launches – you can read the blurb from Donna Haraway (!) here – and you can pre-order it (or leave a customer review – much appreciated, btw) here in the sprawling maw of the Bezos empire. Asking for money may be ubiquitous now, but it’s still awkward, so I’ll cut to the chase: if you’re in a position to organize a fabulous and at least somewhat paid event, or to support my book tour in May in any other way, really, please be in touch. Consider clicking below to PayPal me or patreon-ize me, or buy me a gift card for groceries (helping me save up for the trip).

Your money will help me travel – where small, wonderful, radical organizations don’t have enough money to allow me to do so – which means I’ll be able to present my manifesto for trans-inclusive gestational justice and family abolition all over the world, combating SWERFs and TERFs (and SERFs!) and learning from reproductive utopians of every ilk. As detailed in my 2018 round-up twitter thread (copied below), I am in a juicy and creative spell with my writing, but my income sources right now are still extremely erratic. I would like to be able to say ‘yes’ to the invitations I’ve received.

So, many thanks in advance for your solidarity and pecuniary largesse. And, as always, thanks for reading.

love,

Sophie

supporting Sophie’s book tour

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Article at The New Socialist

“Labour does you”: Might thinking through pregnancy as work help us radicalise the politics of care?

I’ve never known anyone to disagree with the old saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ Yet this general approval of the distributed, collaborative character of the work of parenting does not frequently carry over—for some reason—to the question of making a baby. In my forthcoming book Full Surrogacy Now, I look at the gestational surrogacy industry politically and think speculatively about how to abolish actually-existing pregnancy (both waged and unwaged) as a form of capitalist work. I defend the utopian position that infants don’t belong to anybody but, rather, belong to everybody: they will belong only to themselves, in the phrase of the Sisterhood of Black Single Mothers. Nothing new, then: feminists and queers have mounted uncompromising assaults on the institution of the family for well over a century. However, wherever I’ve presented it, I’ve noticed that this call for family abolition, which I root in the Black-lesbian Marxist-feminist critique of kinship and the gender binary, appears rather contentious. It seems my proposition that the complicatedness of pregnancy itself might be a useful heuristic for complicating the politics of ‘care’ (and replacing kinship with comradeliness is, for some, a tough one to swallow. Why is this? Why, in other words, is a blog-post entitled ‘Gestators of all Genders, Unite!’ or the statement ‘The gender of gestating is ambiguous’ still guaranteed to scandalise not only Angela Nagle, but most cisgender feminists? These are some of the questions I want to persuade you it is important for anti-capitalists to pose.

Read the rest of this piece at The New Socialist, where it was commissioned by the most excellent Josie Moore (@ofthesparrows), who happens to be the author of this piece I found very rewarding, on journalist Andrew O’Hagan’s appalling book-length coverage for the LRB of the mass murder that was Grenfell Tower.

The editors at The New Socialist even generously included me in the Editors’ Selection for 2018. I’m in illustrious and radical company there, so check it out.

Cyborg uterine geography

Cyborg uterine geography

My article, “Cyborg uterine geography: complicating ‘care’ and social reproduction” is now published in Volume 8, Issue 3 of the the journal Dialogues in Human Geography. It is the anchor article in a forum featuring responses from professors Heidi Nast, Robyn Longhurst, Kath Browne, and Maria Fannin – followed by a rejoinder from me. The forum threw up lots of interesting lines of contention around the politics and value of ‘generosity’, the gender of the maternal.

Abstract

Most geographers have sided with ‘cyborgs’ (technonatural subjects) against ‘goddesses’ (e.g. Mother Earth) on questions of embodiment. In itself this provides no justification for the relative dearth (in geography) of theorizing ‘with’ the uterus as a site of doing and undoing; what I propose to call uterine geography. ‘Uterine’ relations are fundamentally cyborg, animatedly labouring and not only spatial but spatializing: they make and unmake places, borders, kin. This includes not only abortion, miscarriage, menstruation and pregnancy (whose transcorporeal and chimeric character is well documented in medical anthropology) but also other life-enabling forms of holding and letting go that do not involve anatomical uteri (such as trans-mothering and other alter-familial practices). Despite our discipline’s ostensible interest in co-production, hybridity and the more-than-human, the ‘doing’ aspects of intra and interuterine processes have tended to be black-boxed in accounts of care economies and social reproduction. The proposed remedy is deromanticization: an approach that critically politicizes uterine relations as historically contingent and subject to amelioration through struggle. Potential aides include Maggie Nelson’s idea that ‘labor does you’, Suzanne Sadedin’s account of gestation’s mutual hostility and the concepts of ‘sym-poiesis’ and ‘metramorphosis’. One notable consequence of this expanded concept of the uterine is that ‘assisted reproduction’, as it is characterized today, ceases to be categorically separate from other kinds of reproduction.

The paper as a whole can currently be accessed for free here.

Some quick reflections on the discussion…

Among the overwhelmingly positive ‘forum’ responses, Longhurst was sceptical of my claim that feminist geographers (and thinkers in the humanities generally) have lacked an active verb to describe the work of being pregnant. Or at least, she doubts that the verb “to gestate” is it, noting that the pregnant women she has interviewed did not talk about “gestating”. Separately, Browne points out that while I assert “a normal prosthesis-free family does not exist,” my actual illustrations involve (exclusively) “trans communalities” and thus, she felt, “queering ‘normal’ remains a latent possibility” in my text rather than a demonstrated reality. Meanwhile, Fannin takes issue with my strategy of adopting biologist Suzanne Sadedin’s agonistic, anti-generosity narration of pregnancy as a way of advancing those aims. Pregnancy, Maria reminds me, is “hardly presented in modern medical contexts as an entirely risk-free process”. Far from iconoclastic, the basic tenets of the “war in the womb” story are actually “overfamiliar” and – as she argues – have to be understood as complicit in ongoing “structural violence aimed at [some] birth givers” in the broader social and political field. In other words: I should at minimum have prolonged my attack on the demonization of pregnancy if I was going to focus so much criticism on its romanticisation. I address this great point in-depth in my rejoinder.

Another risk (Longhurst correctly identifies) is that we erect, in language, a
sovereign subject of gestation that, for most gestators, simply feels like a lie. However, times change. Ironically, the word “gestate” once denoted the heroic action of horse-riding and is etymologically linked to the very ideal of sovereign subjecthood: gest or geste in Old French meant “famous deed or exploit” (as in: chansons de geste). To geste-ate, then, evokes to me a meta-level of action, a doing of doings: a saddling and riding of exploits and exploitations, where the fetus (or fetuses) participate(s) in the gesture. The purpose of this and of my admittedly clumsy use of abstruse language like “metramorphosis” and “sym-poetic,” as Longhurst hopefully perceives, is to get at the uncanny dynamic in pregnancy that eludes a subject/object division. As we do labour, labour does us back. This elusive quality of the distribution of agency in baby-making labour is unfortunately something I do not know how to reference in consistently simple vocabulary. Yet I am convinced of the insufficiency of the commonplaces at our disposal – formulations like “to be with child”, “to be expecting” and “to have children”, which circle around the exterior of the gestating body and conceal its creativity. Even “to be pregnant” only credits the condition passively to the actor who, having failed to be “impregnable,” was “impregnated”. As for the problem of research subjects not volunteering alternative idioms: all I can say is that some gestators do call what they are doing gestating. For me, politically, that’s enough.

Read more – including Heidi Nast’s far more oppositional response to my work – in the next issue of Dialogues.

And in the meantime, here’s a link to my anchor article: Cyborg Uterine Geography.