Finalist, 2015 C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems
India is the top provider of surrogacy services in the world, with a multi-million dollar surrogacy industry that continues to grow exponentially, as increasing numbers of couples from developed nations look for wombs in which to grow their babies. Some scholars have exulted transnational surrogacy for the possibilities it opens for infertile couples, while others have offered bioethical cautionary tales, rebuked exploitative intended parents, or lamented the exploitation of surrogate mothers—but very little is known about the experience of and transaction between surrogate mothers and intended parents outside the lens of the many agencies that control surrogacy in India. Drawing from rich interviews with surrogate mothers and egg donors in Bangalore, as well as twenty straight and gay couples in the U.S. and Australia, Discounted Life focuses on the processes of social and market exchange in transnational surrogacy.
"Discounted Life is compassionate, critical and somehow as heart-warming as it is heart-breaking...Sharmila Rudrappa takes us into the socially and economically precarious worlds of the garment-factory workers in urban Bangalore who also constitute the recruiting ground for a lucrative global business turning poverty in India into babies for the West."
“Discounted Life is compassionate, critical and somehow as heart-warming as it is heart-breaking. Most of all it is an utterly captivating look into the lives of women who made the production line of India’s surrogacy industry at a time when it was still legal and booming.”
“Discounted Life is a detailed ethnography on the industry of commercial gestational surrogacy in Bangalore, India. Describing the women who engage with the transitional surrogacy business as ambitious and witty instead of poor and exploited, Rudrappa offers a counter-narrative to the common discourse on Indian surrogate mothers.”
—Sociology of Health & Illness
“This is an engaging and well-written ethnography that will be interesting to scholars of labor markets, reproduction, and India. I would also recommend it for teaching general sociology and methods courses.”
—American Journal of Sociology
“This is a book many of us have been waiting for: a serious ethnography on commercial surrogacy. Sharmila Rudrappa utilizes the best social and cultural analysis to get inside the heads of the surrogates, the parents, medical professionals and the middlemen that participate in this growing international industry. Rudrappa shows there is no easy answer to the moral and ethical dilemmas raised in the brokering of reproduction. Discounted Life elicits debates on who the winners and losers are in commercial surrogacy. It is a must read for anyone interested in the field of reproductive labor and reproductive inequalities in the 21st century.”
—Rhacel Salazar Parreñas, author of Servants of Globalization: Women, Migration and Domestic Work
“Of all the books, articles, documentaries and discussion on this topic, this is the one. Rudrappa has gone the furthest, deepest and most thoughtfully into this troubling issue.”
—Barbara Katz Rothman, author of A Bun in the Oven: How The Birth and Food Movements Resist Industrialization
"Discounted Life makes a compelling read and will appeal to academics interested in the transnational trade of reproductive labour...A particular strength of the book is the explicit, transparent, and reflexive account of participant recruitment strategies and struggles...[T]his is a truly excellent book and a crucial contribution to the field of assisted reproduction in a global market."
—Christina Weis, De Montfort University , Sociology of Health & Illness