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

Help Support Open Transcripts

If you found this useful or interesting, please consider supporting the project monthly at Patreon or once via Cash App, or even just sharing the link. Thanks.