This chapter explores the use of assisted reproductive technology (ART) by queer and transgender people and how they have to perform particular bodily and intimate selves in the processes of seeking ART (Armuand et al., 2017; Mamo 2007, 2013). The bioprecarity of queer and transgender people is produced by the enactment of certain kinds of categorical framing (Foucault, 1977, 1990; Somerville, 1995) in the laws regulating ART. Prohibitive laws in some states are often circumvented by going abroad. This chapter therefore argues that queer and trans people’s bioprecarity also results from the intimate labour queer and transgender people have to undertake to overcome prohibitive laws and hetero- and cisnormative medical institutions as shown e.g. in studies about trans people’s experiences with ART (Armuand et al., 2017; James-Abra et al., 2015).
Queer kinship, reproductive labour and biopolitics
This chapter explores how different forms of reproductive labour create different precarities within LGBTQ parenting and kin-making in contemporary Sweden. It especially considers the precarization of biological labour in a setting where intimate labour is the foundation for kin-making and where the necessary making, gestating and breastfeeding of a child is downplayed in relation to parenthood status. Drawing on ethnographic research, the chapter also illuminates how ‘biology’ produces strong feelings, even in a kinship structure that departs from the notion of intent and intimate labour as equally shared matters. Framing queer reproduction as both a biopolitical question and a question of gender labour, the chapter then discusses how gendered and racialized ideas of parenthood and kinship are reproduced and reworked in imaginaries of LGBTQ parenthood. Contributing to critical whiteness studies, it argues that the (queer) nation is repeatedly recreated as white, while whiteness remains invisible to those who inhabit it.
This chapter explores the intimate labour performed by surrogate mothers in the globalized fertility market. Using her body and providing her womb and uterus, blood and sweat, the surrogate mother engages in a highly embodied labour (Pande, 2010). At the same time, the non-genetic relation between the foetus and the surrogate is used by clients and clinics to reduce the woman to a ‘gestational carrier’ and a ‘mere vessel’ (Pande, 2010). By drawing on interviews with Thai women enrolled in transnational commercial surrogacy, this chapter highlights the surrogate mothers’ precarious and vulnerable position in a process of cross-cultural biotechnological intervention with inherently differential power relations among the stakeholders.
Understanding the intimate labour involved in clitoral reconstruction after female genital cutting
This chapter centres on circumcised women’s experiences of bioprecarity in the context of seeking clitoral reconstructive surgery in Sweden. Female genital cutting (FGC), significant in marking the mature, desirable and marriageable woman in some cultures (Johansen, 2017), is today a significant phenomenon in Europe due to recent migration patterns (van Baelen et al., 2016). Transcultural migration and societal changes create new perceptions of the body, self and identity. At the same time, new notions of bodily rights, what is perceived as legitimate claims and needs and advances in biotechnology have enabled circumcised women in some European countries to have their clitoris reconstructed (Foldés et al., 2012). Based on original empirical data in the form of interviews with FGC-affected women, this chapter seeks to investigate how migrant women who have undergone FGC perceive their bodies and selves, how they construct and negotiate their identity within new social structures and gender norms and how they understand clitoral reconstructive surgery after FGC, in the Swedish context.
Coffin rituals and the releasing of exorcised spirits
Returning to central Malaysia to describe two ritual events, Chapter 9 serves to compare south and central Malaysia’s Seventh Month ritual events. The first ethnography recounts a night-time luck-promoting ‘coffin ritual’ in Kuala Lumpur where participants lie in a coffin, symbolically dying and entering the Underworld when the coffin lid is closed and re-entering the world of the living as the coffin lid is removed. The ritual is described from the perspective of both participant and observer. As the coffin ritual was appropriated from contemporary Thai Theravada Buddhism, the analysis further examines Thai transnational cultural flows. The second ethnography revisits Klang to recount the ritual release of exorcised spirits which have been trapped in Guinness bottles and stored in the prison cell in the temple’s Underworld recreation. The chapter concludes by discussing Di Ya Pek’s perceptions of the relative passage of time in the Underworld, and an alternative interpretation of the Chinese Underworld’s creation.
Moving south to Johor State during Ghost Month, Chapter 8 focuses on the comparative importance of City God temples in Malaysia and the active role played by Anxi Chenghuangmiao in promoting the contemporary tradition. The first ethnography follows an elaborate salvation ritual at Muar City God temple, with particular attention paid to the influence of Mahayana Buddhism and Thai vernacular religion. The latter manifests in the use of Thai luk thep dolls appropriated to accommodate the souls of malicious foetus ghosts enlisted into the temple’s Underworld spirit army. As the Malaysian malicious foetus ghost is a reinvention both of vulnerable foetus spirits in Singapore and of foetus ghosts appropriated into Taiwan’s vernacular tradition from Japan, transnational cultural flows and the socio-political catalysts affecting them are introduced. Returning to community creation, the second ethnography focuses on an event titled ‘Anxi City God’s cultural exchange’. Bringing together ten pairs of Tua Di Ya Pek, one pair channelled from each Underworld court, discussions with them reveal perceptions of post-mortal cosmology in conflict with that of their Singaporean counterparts. The analysis therefore compares societal catalysts triggered by Singapore and Malaysia’s competing post-1965 political agendas to account for the divergences between the two Underworld traditions’ cosmological interpretations.
Chapter 3 tracks the years between 1948 and 1981, during which the rights of British subjects expanded and retracted drastically. Over the course of these decades legal statuses associated with the British imperial polity proliferated, their content and meaning shifting according to fluctuating imperial ambitions. The effect of these statutory changes was to create Britain as a domestic space of colonialism in which colonial wealth is principally an entitlement of Britons, conjured up as white, and in which poor racialised people are disproportionately policed, marginalised, expelled and killed.
Biblical literacy and Khoesan national renewal in the Cape Colony
The rapid growth in popularity of the Protestant, Nonconformist missionary movement among the Cape Colony’s indigenous population, the Khoesan, coincided with Britain’s efforts to remould the Cape into a territory which exhibited British characteristics. Cape society had already been structured according to a racial hierarchy, though race was not yet the sole determinant of belonging as it was to become from the 1840s onwards. Christian identity held important sway in the Cape Colony during the early nineteenth century and was an important marker of social status and inclusion. For Khoesan descended from distinct, precolonial ethnic lineages, biblical literacy offered a language through which a new, Christian ‘nation’ could be imagined and articulated, and which could challenge settler–colonial hierarchies of power. This chapter explores how the Bible became a site of contestation in the struggle over the ownership of Protestant Christianity in the Cape Colony during the early nineteenth century. Khoesan acceptance of the Bible did not simply amount to submission to Western domination. Rather, Khoesan interpretations of scripture positioned the Bible as a disruptive, anti-colonial text. By confirming the Bible as a potent repository of symbolism and imagery, Khoesan sought to challenge racially based notions of Christian identity.
While historians of early modern Britain have long noted the ubiquity of Old Testament typology in religious-political discourse, its enduring potency thereafter has received much less attention. In part this is because of the flexibility of such rhetoric, for while posing as a ‘new Israel’ worked for embattled states like sixteenth-century England, this was not the only rhetorical option available; nor was it always the most apposite comparison, especially in the era of British global hegemony. This chapter argues that maritime imperial expansion lent particular weight to one set of passages, those concerning ancient seagoing Tyre and Tarshish. What they stood for was seldom stable: they were read prophetically, as literally presaging Britain’s current greatness; typologically, as warnings against the besetting sins of commercial greed and pride; and moralistically, as examples of the problems caused by imperial overstretch. I seek to show that British people in the nineteenth century continued to map the world and their place in it in biblical terms, to an extent that has sometimes been underplayed. What that meant, however, was increasingly open to interpretation.