Brown Bodies, White Babies

The Politics of Cross-Racial Surrogacy

320 pages

September, 2016

ISBN: 9781479894864



Add to Cart Available: 8/19/2016

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Laura Harrison is an Associate Professor in the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

All books by Laura Harrison

Brown Bodies, White Babies focuses on the practice of cross-racial gestational surrogacy, in which a woman - through in-vitro fertilization using the sperm and egg of intended parents or donors - carries a pregnancy for intended parents of a different race. Focusing on the racial differences between parents and surrogates, this book is interested in how reproductive technologies intersect with race, particularly when brown bodies produce white babies. While the potential of reproductive technologies is far from pre-determined, the ways in which these technologies are currently deployed often serve the interests of dominant groups, through the creation of white, middle-class, heteronormative families.           

Laura Harrison, providing an important understanding of the work of women of color as surrogates, connects this labor to the history of racialized reproduction in the United States.  Cross-racial surrogacy is one end of a continuum in which dominant groups rely on the reproductive potential of nonwhite women, whose own reproductive desires have been historically thwarted and even demonized.  Brown Bodies, White Babies provides am interdisciplinary analysis that includes legal cases of contested surrogacy, historical examples of surrogacy as a form of racialized reproductive labor, the role of genetics in the assisted reproduction industry, and the recent turn toward reproductive tourism.  Joining the ongoing feminist debates surrounding reproduction, motherhood, race, and the body, Brown Bodies, White Babies ultimately critiques the new potentials for parenthood that put the very contours of kinship into question.


  • Brown Bodies, White Babies reveals fresh insights on the politics of reproduction in the United States and globally by investigating the racialized and gendered meanings of kinship in the context of cross-racial gestational surrogacy —when a surrogate is not the same race as the intended parents. Despite surrogacy’s seemingly radical potential, Harrison brilliantly shows how these arrangements reinforce genetic determinism, white privilege, and the biological concept of race. An important and provocative contribution to critical analyses of assisted reproduction.”

    —Dorothy Roberts, author of Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and The Meaning of Liberty

  • “In a refreshingly clear, engaging, jargon-free voice, Harrison introduces readers to the role of race in the discourse surrounding surrogacy in the United States. Her interdisciplinary, qualitative analysis of cross-racial surrogacy in popular media, legal cases and on websites provides an important addition to the sociology and anthropology of reproduction.”

    —Elly Teman, author of Birthing a Mother: The Surrogate Body and the Pregnant Self

  • “An indispensable contribution, this book historicizes the ideologies of race and racial transmission that cut through the heart of reproductive labor right from wet nursing in the emergent American colonies to present-day cross-racial surrogacy. A must-read for any student of reproductive justice.”

    —Sharmila Rudrappa, author of Discounted Life: The Price of Global Surrogacy in India

  • “Laura Harrison’s book Brown Bodies, White Babies: The Politics of Cross-Racial Surrogacy provides readers with a comprehensive and insightful analysis of surrogacy using both intersectional theory and discourse analysis, before concluding with a call for activism and engagement.”

    Hypatia Reviews

  • "[A] refreshingly new take...add[ing] complexity to the well-trod feminist discussion..."