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On Gestational Communism

Marie Glassl, Sophie Lewis

Surrogate Abolition
Sophie Lewis in Conversation with Marie Glassl

Published: 26.05.2023


Marie Glassl: Sophie, why and how did you begin to write about surrogacy?

Sophie Lewis: While doing my PhD in human geography I was working on the categories of work and nature and the possibility that the entities and organisms that we call nature are in fact not separate from the domain of work. By looking at the work of nature, I wanted to contribute to existing lines of ecomarxist and “more-than-humanist” inquiry that were probing how certain forms of work might trouble established political economic frameworks.

And I ended up reaching for the ground zero of the production of the human: gestation. Birth and natality are talked about all the time, yet the actual work of manufacturing fetuses is very much bracketed.

It remains challenging to speak about gestation in terms of labour. It is easier to begin by isolating the waged gestational workplace. But commercial surrogacy for me was a way of exploring the more-than-human productivity of all pregnancies. Pregnancy is a great illustration of the fact that, in Donna Haraway’s words, what we call the human is always already a multispecies relationship.

MG: Do we have to go as far as to say that there is no actual difference between “natural” gestation and surrogacy as they are both “capitalist functions of the uterus,” a production of the human? I often feel like the hardest part for people is to accept that there is no natural bond between a mother and her baby, to somehow accept that what we call love is produced.

SL: That’s right. The naturalization of certain labours (notably labours of love) is a mechanism of gender that often feels very painful to make visible. Generally, under capitalism, I think we cannot tolerate the idea of being the products of others’ labours. We prefer the metaphysical language of kinship-as-given: a concept of automatic createdness grounded in a blood- or DNA-fetish that casts progeny as intellectual property and private property.

Actually, as you may recall, I start Full Surrogacy Now by describing the beauty, danger and violence of pregnancy: “It is a wonder we let fetuses inside us.” But it is not, in my opinion, that there is “no actual difference” between what we call surrogacy and what we call having-a-baby. You’re right in that I wanted to show that the difference between the two things is mystified enormously by the bioclinical...

  • critique of neoliberalism
  • community
  • family
  • social movements
  • communism
  • motherhood
  • birth

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Marie Glassl

Marie Glassl

Marie Glassl works as dramaturg, curator, author and translator. Since her studies in literature and philosophy in Frankfurt a.M. and Venice, she works primarily at the interface between the performative arts and discourse. Her practice and research are particularly focused on materialities of language and current entanglements of aesthetics and language politics as well as early Italian feminist art tradition. In 2024 she is artistic director of the interdisciplinary project On Wasted Grounds that she organizes together with Diaphanes. She is co-editor of transdisciplinary and multilingual magazine DIAPHANES where she also presents a series of interviews with current practitioners from the arts and discourse. She has been lecturer and moderator for conferences and festivals between the arts and science with Akademie der Künste Berlin, Royal College of Arts London, Migros Museum Zürich, Chronos Foundation and Bolzano Danza. In her performative practice she collaborates with transdisciplinary artists, institutions and museums worldwide like Emma Waltraud Howes, Constanza Macras/ Dorkypark or the Venice Biennale. At Diaphanes she translates poetry and political theory from Italian and English currently texts by Ines & Eyal Weizman, Roberto Esposito, Allison Grimaldi Donahue and NourbeSe Philip. From 2024 she translates and co-edits the works of Alice Ceresa into German and works on an upcoming Performance Reader together with Johannes Odenthal.
Sophie Lewis

Sophie Lewis

Sophie Lewis is a writer living in Philadelphia. Their analyses of feminist anti-utopianisms, octopusdocumentaries, and heterosexual televisual artifacts have been published in journals such as n+1, Harper's, The New York Times, The London Review of Books, and Boston Review. Sophie is the author of Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family, and more recently of Abolish the Family: A Manifesto for Care and Liberation. Previously, Dr Lewis studied English (and then environmental theory) at Oxford University and earned a PhD in human geography at the University of Manchester. As a member of the faculty of Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, Sophie teaches courses on feminist theory, trans and queer politics, and antiwork philosophy, online and open to all. A Visiting Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Research on Feminist, Queer and Transgender Studies, Sophie is nevertheless a freelance writer. Their lectures, podcast appearances and essays are archived at