Settler colonialism is about reproduction: Sigrid Vertommen, State of the //ART// of the State: a political economy of assisted reproduction in Palestine/Israel, PhD Dssertation, University of Gent, 2017


Abstract: This dissertation aims to unravel Israel’s pronatalist fertility regime as co-produced by ongoing histories of Zionist settler colonialism and biocapitalism. Rather than adhering to dominant culturalist viewpoints on (assisted) reproduction in Israel, which focus on the particularity of fertility in Jewish culture, law and religion, State of the //ART// of the State advances a gendered political economy perspective. This transdisciplinary perspective looks into the sociomaterialities of ART in Israel/Palestine at the intrasecting logic of biocapital accumulation and demographic elimination, by bringing to the fore its mutually constituting power hierarchies of class, race, gender, biology, sociality, life and death. Taking reproductive technologies and practices such as IVF, Pergonal, egg donation and transnational surrogacy as case studies that have been studied through qualitative fieldwork in Israel/Palestine, I have unpacked the gendered political economy approach by consistently looking into four key themes: 1) settler colonial demographies, 2) ART’s life and death function, 3) biocapitalism’s underlying property –and labour regimes and 4) the (re)productive role of women and their bodies. Using ARTs as a looking glass to understand how Zionism transformed from a European ideology into a practice in Palestine/Israel, has exposed the intimate ways through which reproductive technologies and practices have co-produced a settler colonial state, nationalised bodies, racialised populations and ‘pioneering’ bio-markets, ánd vice versa. I concluded that Zionism’s demographic arithmetic directed at manufacturing a Jewish majority at the expense of Palestinian life, has enabled the development of an innovative reproductive-embryonic industry, in which women and their bodies play a crucial role, both as reproducers of the settler nation and as (unrecognised) producers of biovalue. Although the sphere of biological and social reproduction constitutes a powerful perspective to understand Zionist policies of demographic control, elimination and biocapital accumulation, it is also a fertile starting point to explore, imagine and construct anticolonial political horizons.

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