Sophie Lewis: My name’s Sophie Lewis. I’m a writer based in Philadelphia. A para-academic…academic in exile. Thank you very much— Oh and I’m a mem­ber of the Out of the Woods col­lec­tive with Kai. Unless I’m out­ing him. Anyway. 

Thank you for invit­ing me, a non-design per­son, to this forum to as I under­stand it pro­vide a lit­tle bit of spec­u­la­tive prose and some ground­ed, queer utopi­anism that hap­pi­ly may inspire or abut some of the aes­thet­ic ori­en­ta­tions that are being cooked up here. 

Earlier this year I pub­lished a book enti­tled Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family about how chil­dren don’t belong to any­one, about pro­lif­er­at­ing rela­tions of care, about abol­ish­ing the nuclear het­ero­nor­ma­tive fam­i­ly, and about ges­ta­tion­al labor both paid and unpaid. Its title, Full Surrogacy Now, means two dialec­ti­cal­ly opposed things. It is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly a utopi­an cry for the queer ges­ta­tion­al com­mune, and a descrip­tion of what’s going on right now, which is very much not that. The dystopi­an struc­ture of plan­e­tary real­i­ty in the present. Indentured ser­vice, sub­al­ter­ni­ty, crowd­fund­ing, out­sourc­ing, neo­feu­dal­ism, civ­il strifes, invis­i­b­lized sub-sub-contracting, and above all—to use the phrase of Shellee Colen—reproductive stratification. 

So, when the term assist­ed repro­duc­tive tech­nol­o­gy” came on the scene in the 80s, the short ver­sion is that some black fem­i­nists like Angela Davis sort of said these are not new repro­duc­tive tech­nolo­gies. That this rela­tion of sur­ro­ga­cy is noth­ing new. Black women were nev­er the own­ers of the prop­er­ty that they pro­duced with the prod­ucts of their ges­ta­tion­al labor on the plan­ta­tion, and in many ways repro­duc­tion is already always assist­ed.” The point is what kinds of assis­tance do we want to manifest. 

So in this pre­scrip­tive sense, Full Surrogacy Now is meant to be a man­i­festo, and the injunc­tion full sur­ro­ga­cy now” is inspired by queer black poly­ma­ter­nal­ist fem­i­nisms and anti-work Marxisms, as I’ve sort of indi­cat­ed. It’s in this sense a way of evok­ing the world that we might build that would do jus­tice to the already active kind of porous­ness and bod­i­ly gen­eros­i­ty that cap­i­tal­ism cur­rent­ly steals from us, and hands into all man­ner of accu­mu­la­tion schemes and ren­tier­ships and pri­vate insti­tu­tions like the family. 

And this is not per­haps what the major­i­ty of peo­ple think of when they hear the words eco­log­i­cal design,” but there’s a grow­ing num­ber of us who see chil­dren’s lib­er­a­tion, ges­ta­tion­al jus­tice, and specif­i­cal­ly the labor of anthro­ge­n­e­sis, right, lit­er­al­ly the man­u­fac­tur­ing of human bod­ies, as a cen­tral com­po­nent of the gen­er­a­tion of liv­able future land­scapes. Queer utopi­an cyborg ecol­o­gists, for whom it’s always been obvi­ous that the human body is a mul­ti­species rela­tion­ship, and that we are all the mak­ers of one anoth­er (the ques­tion being can we learn to act like it) are I think part of the— Thank you for con­sid­er­ing us part of this con­ver­sa­tion here today.

The final chap­ter of Full Surrogacy Now attempts in spec­u­la­tive watery lan­guage to make the link between all this fam­i­ly abo­li­tion­ist ges­ta­tion­al utopi­anism that has gone before and eco­log­i­cal prac­tices a bit more obvi­ous. It’s called Amniotechnics, and that’s what I’ve been invit­ed to read from today. So, here goes.

[Most of the rest of this pre­sen­ta­tion is a read­ing, with some com­men­tary, from Sophie’s book and so will not be repro­duced here except the final para­graph before clos­ing com­ments. However, the chap­ter was adapt­ed from a pre­vi­ous essay at The New Inquiry also titled Amiotechnics.” Though edit­ed and rearranged for the book, much of the con­tent is the same.]

Our water­i­ness is our sur­ro­ga­cy. It is the bed of our bod­ies’ over­lap, and it is, not necessarily—but possibly—a source of rad­i­cal kin­ship. To an extent, bod­ies up always leaky, par­a­sit­ed, and non-unitary, as the vital and var­ied flo­ra of bac­te­ria in every­body, not just lit­er­al­ly ges­tat­ing ones, demon­strates. In the accounts of earth­ly life giv­en by biol­o­gists such as Lynn Margulis, we are all revealed to be dis­con­cert­ing­ly preg­nant, multiply-pregnant, with myr­i­ad enti­ties, bac­te­ria, virus­es, and more, some of whom are even ges­tat­ing us. 

So the ques­tion is, how do we actu­al­ize that giv­en that all repro­duc­tion is assist­ed, although it’s cer­tain­ly going to be up to us since tech­nocrats won’t do it for us, to pur­sue ways to tweak bod­i­ly biol­o­gy to bet­ter priv­i­lege, pro­tect, sup­port, and empow­er those with uterus­es who find them­selves put to work by a pla­cen­ta, for exam­ple, in a spir­it of eco­log­i­cal abun­dance. Let’s bring about the con­di­tions for man­u­fac­tur­ing one anoth­er more safe­ly, enjoy­ably, and non-competitively. Let’s hold one anoth­er hos­pitably, explode notions of hered­i­tary parent­age and prop­er­tar­i­an biol­o­gy, mul­ti­ply real sol­i­dar­i­ties. Let’s build a ges­ta­tion­al com­mune based on com­rade­ship, and a soci­ety sus­tained by the notion of kith, the old word that used to be an alter­na­tive to the word kin, that refers to affini­ties based on place and action rather than by fic­tions of blood. Where preg­nan­cy is con­cerned, let every preg­nan­cy be for every­one. Full sur­ro­ga­cy now. Thank you very much.

Further Reference

Climate Futures II event page