BSP Podcast: Luna Dolezal – Phenomenology and Intercorporeality in the Case of Commercial Surrogacy

podcast update

Season three of our podcast continues with the first of the keynote presentations from the BSP Annual Conference in 2018.

Season 3 episode 51: 8 February 2019

This recording is of Dr Luna Dolezal’s keynote presentation ‘Phenomenology and Intercorporeality in the Case of Commercial Surrogacy’ from the BSP Annual Conference 2018. You can listen to this episode on the BSP’s Podbean site, and you can also find it on iTunes and all good podcasting apps by searching ‘BSP Podcast’.

Luna Dolezal is Lecturer in Medical Humanities and Philosophy at the University of Exeter, UK. Her research is primarily in the areas of applied phenomenology, feminist philosophy, philosophy of embodiment, philosophy of medicine and medical humanities. She is the author of The Body and Shame: Phenomenology, Feminism and the Socially Shaped Body (Lexington Books, 2015) and the co-editor of Body/Self/Other: The Phenomenology of Social Encounters (SUNY Press, 2017) and New Feminist Perspectives on Embodiment (Palgrave, 2018).

Abstract: “In this paper, I will attempt to put the maternal-foetal relation through pregnancy into the centre of the ethical questions that arise in the practice of commercial gestational surrogacy. I will proceed by drawing attention to the predominant logic regarding bodies, babies, pregnancy and motherhood that underpins most bioethical discussion regarding commercial surrogacy, making salient the dominant metaphoric and patriarchal landscapes which shape how we commonly understand pregnancy, surrogacy and parenthood in the present day. Following Emily Martin, I argue that key metaphors about the body and bodily events can shape one’s experience and the logic of the practices which surround those experiences. Through describing aspects of the metaphoric landscape within which the practices of commercial surrogacy are primarily thematized, I will demonstrate that a phenomenology of pregnancy, or a theorizing of pregnancy as a complex existential intercorporeal and lived experience, is most often omitted or effaced in bioethical discussions about commercial surrogacy. As such, I will suggest that what is missing in the discourse and bioethical literature on surrogacy is an adequate theorizing of pregnancy. In order to suggest how we might introduce a theory of pregnancy, I will turn to recent phenomenological ontological accounts of pregnancy and intercorporeality, using the insights of Maurice Merleau-Ponty as a conceptual ground. In doing so, I will describe the phenomenology of the affective maternal-foetal relationship, engaging with Iris Marion Young’s classical discussion of pregnant embodiment alongside recent accounts of the phenomenology of pregnancy from Jane Lymer and Sara Heinämaa. Ultimately I will argue that the role of the surrogate is phenomenologically and existentially significant in foetal development and in the creation of a new human subject through communicative intercorporeal relations. Overall, my aim is to put the maternal-foetal relation and pregnancy, as a complex life-generating and kinship-generating experience with substantial social, developmental and existential significance, at the centre of conversations about commercial gestational surrogacy and to disrupt the predominant logic that surrogate mothers are merely ‘human incubators,’ or a special type of container or vessel for the foetuses that they gestate.”

The British Society for Phenomenology’s Annual Conference took place at the University of Kent, in Canterbury, UK during July, 2018. It gathered together philosophers, literary scholars, phenomenologists, and practitioners exploring phenomenological theory and its practical application. It covered a broad range of areas and issues including the arts, ethics, medical humanities, mental health, education, technology, feminism, politics and political governance, with contributions throwing a new light on both traditional phenomenological thinkers and the themes associated with classical phenomenology. More information about the conference can be found here.