Wombs in Labor: Transnational Commercial Surrogacy in India

Surrogacy is India’s new form of outsourcing, as couples from all over the world hire Indian women to bear their children for a fraction of the cost of surrogacy elsewhere with little to no government oversight or regulation. In the first detailed ethnography of India’s surrogacy industry, Amrita Pande visits clinics and hostels and speaks with surrogates and their families, clients, doctors, brokers, and hostel matrons in order to shed light on this burgeoning business and the experiences of the laborers within it.

From recruitment to training to delivery, Pande’s research focuses on how reproduction meets production in surrogacy and how this reflects characteristics of India’s larger labor system. Pande’s interviews prove surrogates are more than victims of disciplinary power, and she examines the strategies they deploy to retain control over their bodies and reproductive futures. While some women are coerced into the business by their families, others negotiate with clients and their clinics to gain access to technologies and networks otherwise closed to them.

As surrogates, the women Pande meets get to know and make the most of advanced medical discoveries. They traverse borders and straddle relationships that test the boundaries of race, class, religion, and nationality. Those who focus on the inherent inequalities of India’s surrogacy industry believe the practice should be either banned or strictly regulated. Pande instead advocates for a better understanding of this complex labor market, envisioning an international model of fair-trade surrogacy founded on openness and transparency in all business, medical, and emotional exchanges

Wombs in Labor was also made into a multimedia documentary-drama, Made in India.

Columbia University Press.
Pande, A. 2014

Indian edition by Primus Books, Delhi. Press. Pande, A. 2018


Scripting defiance: An-Other Sociology

Co-authored with Ari Sitas, Nicos Trimikliniotis, Sumangala Damodaran and Wiebke Keim, Tulika Press and Columbia University Press

This is the second volume from the authors (along with several others) of Gauging and Engaging Deviance, which is positioned between the ideas of deviance and defiance and attempts to uncover scripts through which notions of deviance as well as acts of defiance unravel. It argues that instead of the monologue about the binary of European modernity and its traditional backwoods, the contours are to be found in another archive, one that is made up of significant scripts or narratives of defiance that endure through subaltern people’s cultural formations despite and in response to dominant ideas and ideologies. Such scripts within this archive will help sociology reconstitute itself away from its original mandate: to be part of the fixers, to help the maintenance of social order, to predict and control aberrant behaviour and to create functional individuals and ensembles. The chapters look at specific figures of discontent: the worker, the woman, the student, the artist, the migrant and refugee, the prisoner, and, as a counter-voice, the movements of reaction to their discontent, the movements of authoritative restoration.

Pre-order available at


Columbia University Press & Tulika Press.
Pande, A. 2021

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