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Accepted Paper:

The political economy of transnational ova flows: Ukrainian ova market and its global connections  
Polina Vlasenko (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

The present paper is the first to fill in the gap in the existing STS literature by analyzing the processes of the generation and appropriation of the economic value of ova produced in Ukraine for the exchange on the global reproductive market.

Paper long abstract:

Although a global market for human ova is rapidly developing, offering online purchase of human oocytes with delivery to five continents, it remains largely unexplored and under-regulated. Drawing from and contributing to vibrant conversations in medical anthropology and STS about the politics, economies and technologies of life, my research ethnographically explores the creation of biovalue through the commodification and generation of surplus of reproductive labor power and products (ova) in Ukraine. To provide much needed specificity to the operations of this reproductive bioeconomy, I developed a multi-sited approach to mapping the global ova commodity chains that originate at ova supply side in Ukraine and deliver the final product to differently localized "consumption" markets. This presentation goes beyond discrete socio-spatial boundaries by following the transnational routes of donor ova harvested in Ukraine and reproductive travel of the Ukrainian ova donors who participate in the international ova donation arrangements. As a result, this paper investigates what contributes to the transformation of the economic value of reproductive substances and labor at different sections of the global commodity chains of ova provision. Moreover, it questions the polarizing nature of binary oppositions within existing literature on commercial vs. altruistic exchange of human body parts by looking at how donor ova move in and out of their statuses as commodities vs. gifts. This article builds upon 6 months of participant observation at the private fertility unit/an ova bank and interviews with 49 medical professionals and coordinators and 65 ova donors and surrogate mothers in Ukraine.

Panel G02
From detachment to appropriation: performing commodification
  Session 1