Catalyst Special Issue

December 20, 2019

Colonial Lineages of Global Fertility Chains

Sigrid Vertommen (Ghent University, University of Cambridge), Michal Nahman (University of the West of England) and Bronwyn Parry (King’s College London) are putting together a special issue on Colonial Lineages of Global Fertility Chains with Catalyst journal for feminism, theory and technoscience.

The introduction of in vitro fertilisation in the late seventies has fostered the fragmentation of the reproductive body into mobile body tissues that can be moved within and across national borders, from one body to another, depending on its reproductive potential. This has resulted in the development of global fertility chains in which women, overwhelmingly from the Global South and East, are increasingly marketizing their reproductive capacities, by working as oocyte vendors, surrogate mothers and tissue providers to fulfill the reproductive needs of intended parents.

In the existing feminist, STS, and anthropological literature, global fertility chains are often analysed for their techno-scientific novelty. It is foregrounded how reproductive technologies have articulated or given rise to new forms of family and kinship structures, properties and markets, identities and subjectivities. Notwithstanding this wide array of innovations and novelties, this special section wants to shed light on the older, yet ongoing histories and geographies of power that have shaped these supposedly new reproductive markets. This means considering the (settler)colonial, biocapitalist and heteropatriarchal genealogies of global fertility chains with their highly gendered and racialised modes of production, social reproduction, labour organisation, and population control. It means not only looking at biopolitical and the enabling side of these ‘frontier’ reproductive technologies and the ways they make, enhance and (re)produce life, babies and families, but also taking into account their necropolitical histories of breaking families and unmaking life, which are often present and ongoing.

We call this ART’s colonial present.

We welcome original research papers (preferably empirically grounded papers that engage with theoretical and conceptual framework) or mixed media works (visual essays, audio, and film accompanied by text) on global fertility chains, including surrogacy, egg cell provision, transnational adoption, breastmilk donation, child care, motherhood, etc. that scrutinise the relationship between the extraction and accumulation of surplus-value and the exploitation of reproductive labour from historical, future and/or contemporary perspectives. We also encourage contributions to other journal sections including Commentaries, Critical Perspectives, Image and Text works, and the Lab Meeting.

How are surrogates and egg donors made “available” as cheap sources of reproductive labour and bodily extraction? What are the colonial legacies of the racialised and gendered division of labour in global fertility chains? How are settler imaginaries and practices of demographic settlement shaping ‘pronatalist’ agendas and demands in global fertility chains? Are reproductive technologies developed and governed through imperial or sub-imperial logics? What are the legacies and afterlives of slavery and genocide in shaping the racialized and gendered divisions of labor now evident in global fertility chains?

Analyzing the political economy of contemporary fertility chains from a (de/anti)colonial perspective allows us to discern (dis)continuities in the inextricable and often oppressive ways in which productive and reproductive systems operate. Yet, it could also trigger our analytical and political understandings of the reproductive realm as a crucial sphere of resistance against oppressive socio-historical formations.

Please send abstracts (400-500 words) and short bios by January 3, 2020, to Sigrid Vertommen (, Invitations to submit full papers will be sent by the authors by January 17, 2020. Full papers (max. 7000 words including references, and prepared according to the Catalyst author guidelines) are due June 1, 2020. All articles will go through the standard peer-review process. The Special Section is scheduled to be published in the Spring of 2022.

More info on the Catalyst website