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Accepted Paper:

Bearing one Child to Rear Another: Narratives of Surrogate Mothers from Georgia  
Elene Gavashelishvili (Ilia State University) nino rcheulishvili (Ilia State University)

Paper short abstract:

Recently Georgia has become one of the centers of commercial gestational surrogacy. This paper shows how Surrogate mothers manage to stay within cultural scripts of motherhood as they approach surrogacy as an only way of being a "proper” mother to their “own” children.

Paper long abstract:

The assisted reproductive practice of surrogacy questions cultural scripts that take for granted inseparability of mother-child union. In response, essentialist discourse frames surrogacy as cultural anomaly (Teman, 2010) and represents surrogate mothers as abnormal women, who are capable to give away the child (Roberts, 1998). Recently Georgia has become one of the centers of commercial gestational surrogacy, with growing demand for surrogate mothers. Our research aims to show how local women manage to stay within cultural scripts of motherhood while acting as surrogate mothers.

The paper is based on in-depth interviews with surrogate mothers in Georgia (2020-2021). For broader picture we also use observations and the interviews conducted with other actors of this complex phenomenon: intended mothers, doctors and representatives of surrogacy agencies.

We argue that surrogate mothers' justifications take material from exact repository of cultural scripts. Their basic argument is that they do not give away their “own child”. Georgian language makes this argument more tangible there are different words for „child“(bavshvi) and „own child“(shvili). Moreover, women engage in a surrogacy program precisely because they are mothers themselves and surrogacy seems to be the only solution to improve their “own children’s” material conditions. Thus, seeing surrogacy as a way of being a "proper” mother enables them to stay within the culturally accepted frame of motherhood.

Panel P013c
Motherhood Transformed and Transforming; Discussing the role of motherhood(s) and mother work in constructing futures of hope III
  Session 1 Thursday 28 July, 2022, -