The Liminality and Spatiality of International Surrogacy: A Study of Narratives from UK Parental Order Case Files Relating to International Surrogacy: The Liminality and Spatiality of International Surrogacy

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The morality and exploitation discourse of international surrogacy has presented a complex set of legal challenges in terms of whether regulation should be extended to this sphere of private family life and if so how the regulation should be framed. In particular whether regulation should be an ‘end point control’ operating at the point of an application made by commissioning couples for a parental order or whether regulation should be a ‘start point control’ operating at the point that the couples enter in to contractual surrogacy relations. The potential for commercialisation of the labour of birth and the commodification of the child continues to impede progress in terms of law reform in this area. Instead judges in England and Wales have authorised the publication of private surrogacy judgments to act as a cautionary message to couples seeking to become parents through international surrogacy arrangements. The collective ‘voice’ of commissioning couples is however important in the current debate on reform and the reflexivity nature of court narratives have value to the extent that the retelling of stories can tell us something about individual experiences. This paper draws on the findings of the author’s PhD study at the University of Leicester (due to be completed in 2017). The focus of this paper is to outline the preliminary findings from the data analysis of narratives from 32 international surrogacy court case files where commissioning couples have applied for a parental order. These files relate to applications made in England and Wales over a five-year period between the years 2009 to 2013. The resulting empirical research examines the court narratives and what they tell us about the social structures formed by the parties to international surrogacy agreements and their individual experiences. In particular the paper will examine the ritualistic nature of the liminal space occupied by the parties prior to the birth of the child by drawing on Victor Turner’s theory of liminality. This will involve a further examination of how the space occupied by the commissioning couple and the surrogate under the direction of the clinics leads to the possibility of eventual equilibrium, stability and voluntary kinships.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages29
Publication statusSubmitted - 4 Jun 2017
Event7th World Conference on Family Law and Childrens' Rights: Justice, Equality and Rights - Dublin Conference Centre, Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 4 Jun 20177 Jun 2017


Conference7th World Conference on Family Law and Childrens' Rights
Abbreviated titleWcflcr2017
Internet address

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