13(1) Mar21: Reproduction, Demography & Cultural Anxieties in India & China

Guest Editors Anindita Majumdar, Ravinder Kaur and Paro Mishra are proud to present this special issue on ‘Reproduction, Demography and Cultural Anxieties in India and China’, the first issue of this year’s volume 13.

The papers presented in this special issue emerged from a conference on ‘Reproduction, Demography and Cultural Anxieties in India and China in the 21st Century’ held at New Delhi, India in February 2020. The contributors reflect on the value of ethics and ethical practices in relation to biological issues of demographic transformations and changing reproductive landscapes in the emergence of New Reproductive Technologies (NRTs). We further the discussions at the conference through three primary focus areas:

a. The Social Sciences in Conversation with Bioethics: This special issue is firmly embedded in a social science focus that aims to reflect upon bioethics from the vantage point of how social practices intermingle with reproductive practices and technology in China and India.

b. Reproductive Technologies and Bioethics: The focus on reproduction and reproductive technologies helps hone our discussion on bioethics and how it can be framed in terms of socio-medical practices and ideas, especially in the Global South where changing ideas regarding demography and population are spearheading medical innovations.

c. Social Demography and Bioethical Questions: One of our innovative approaches in this special issue brings together research linking bioethics to social practices such as marriage, family making, care provision, legal injunctions, and state policies. The focus is on how populations and demographic predictions are intimately intertwined with state policies regarding reproduction and reproductive technologies, such as family planning, surrogacy, assisted reproductive technologies and sex selective abortions.

These three vantage points come together in Rajani Bhatia‘s, Anindita Majumdar‘s and Christina Weis‘s papers on reproductive technologies and the reconfiguring of populations through specific biological markers. In Bhatia’s paper, China and India are situated within the globally stratified landscape of sex-selection through ARTs, challenging the understanding of sex-selection as ‘unethical’ in some societies and as ‘choice’ in other societies. Majumdar presents (un)ethical underpinnings of the ways in which ARTs are used by medical practitioners in India to circumvent the ‘biological clock’ and ‘manage’ declining reproduction of female bodies, young and old. The intrusive techno-medical approach, with its exclusive focus on eggs and wombs, and a rhetoric of ‘decline’ and viable pregnancy not only disaggregates women’s bodies into parts but also erases the possibility of any engagement with women’s agency and choice. The question of choice and ethics is also central in Weis’s examination of cross-border fertility landscapes between China and Russia. Here Chinese fertility travellers are actively appropriating ARTs to ‘fashion’ progeny by either creating phenotypical resemblance in them by using Asian donors or by selecting ‘white’ donors to engineer ‘enhanced’, ‘superior’ children, thereby fuelling racialized imaginaries and exacerbating inherent inequalities in global reproductive care chains.

One of the questions we are examining through a bioethical lens is centred on the identification of emerging demographies as ‘residues’ of sex selection, and assisted reproduction. By ‘residues’, we are keen to understand how certain sets of age and gender demographies are threatened into forms of social debility due to certain biotechnological processes. Thus, in Paro Mishra’s paper, adult unmarried sons and their debilitated aging parents have become threatened as a result of new forms of bioregimes that have eliminated female foetuses in the protection and pursuit of male babies in north India, creating bride-shortages, complicating and shifting local ethics of care within the family-household. In Yang Meng, Bo Yang, Shuzhuo Li, and Marcus Feldman’s paper, foetal sex-determination technology, and sex-selective abortions have put ageing bachelors – alone through no choice of their own – at a heightened risk of having less or no familial care. This is caused by a conflict between the individual’s family life and societal family ethics. The inability to marry becomes a trope of the ways in which certain populations become liabilities for those nation states and communities that are actively involved in ‘designing’ desired families, and by extension, populations. Similarly, Xiaorong Gu shows how unmarried women become part of a population marked by the imaginings around pronatalism and the biological clock. In our final paper, population itself is the biocapital, which is valued through its demographic returns. In Ravinder Kaur and Taanya Kapoor’s paper, populations move and change not only through identified processes of demographic movement, but through concerted and orchestrated social processes wherein genders become valued as commodities to be invested in, and or harvested, raising questions of gender justice. The use of sex selection technologies to eliminate girls is constructed as rational and scientific (and hence ethical) while being enmeshed in state policies and family biosocial strategies of social mobility. This final paper concludes the discussion that the previous papers began to look at, viz. the imaginings around populations. Here, bioethics is part of real-time community, state and individual investments into thinking about the future of social demographics.

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Social Sciences, Bioethics and the Question of Population
Editorial by Anindita Majumdar, Paro Mishra, and Ravinder Kaur
doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s41649-020-00162-y [free access]

Changing Fertility Landscapes: Exploring the Reproductive Routes and Choices of Fertility Patients from China for Assisted Reproduction in Russia
Christina Weis
doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s41649-020-00156-w

Figuring India and China in the Constitution of Globally Stratified Sex Selection
Rajani Bhatia
doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s41649-020-00160-0

Ageing and Reproductive Decline in Assisted Reproductive Technologies in India: Mapping the ‘Management’ of Eggs and Wombs
Anindita Majumdar
doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s41649-020-00161-z

“You are not Young anymore!”: Gender, Age and the Politics of Reproduction in Post-reform China
Xiaorong Gu
doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s41649-020-00157-9

Marriage, Health and Old-age Support: Risk to Rural Involuntary Bachelors’ Family Development in Contemporary China
Yang Meng, Bo Yang, Shuzhuo Li, and Marcus W. Feldman
doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s41649-020-00163-x

Reproductive Technologies, Care-Crisis and Inter-generational Relations in North India: Towards a Local Ethics of Care
Paro Mishra
doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s41649-020-00158-8

The Gendered Biopolitics of Sex Selection in India: Increasing the ‘Bio-value’ of Daughters
Ravinder Kaur, and Taanya Kapoor
doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s41649-020-00159-7

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