Emotion, Embodiment, and Reproductive Colonialism in the Global Human Egg Trade

Diane Tober*, Charlotte Kroløkke

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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    In the transnational fertility industry, individuals have differently positioned bodies, ranked by race, class, education, socioeconomic status, gender, and citizenship. Different forms of labor support the transnational fertility market, bringing geopolitical, and social inequities to the fore. While some people need wombs, eggs, or sperm to create their families—and have the means to pay for third-party reproductive services—others emerge as suppliers of reproductive labor, and still others as coordinators or service agents in the international fertility industry. Building upon contemporary feminist social science and postcolonial research on reproductive travel and labor, this article explores three intersecting components: the forces that influence reproductive travel and cross-border egg donation; how emotion and meaning are framed in clinical settings to recruit a young, healthy, able-bodied workforce; and the embodied experiences of women who travel across borders to provide eggs for pay. Drawing upon donor and professional interviews, and multisited online and ethnographic fieldwork in fertility clinics, we explore the linkages between emotional choreography and the creation of a bioavailable workforce for the global fertility trade. Here, we examine how local and cross-border egg provision illuminate global reproductive hierarchies—what we call “reproductive colonialism”—in transnational reproduction.

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalGender, Work and Organization
    Issue number5
    Pages (from-to)1766-1786
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


    • bioavailability
    • colonialism
    • commodification of the body
    • egg donation
    • reproductive travel
    • reproductive work


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