artificial reproduction technology; migrant deaths; precarity; organ transplantation; border regime; moral economy
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This research project will focus on the precarious and moral obligations involved in the intimate relations of people who cross Schengen borders. At the core of this research project are people whose inmost craving for a better life can only be satisfied on the other side of these borders. This is the case for three growing groups of actors that we intend to focus upon: migrants who die while trying to penetrate the European Union, European patients receiving organs from non-European donors, and prospective European parents resorting to non-European egg donors and/or surrogate mothers to procreate. All of these actors put their own lives and other people’s lives at risk in order to fulfill their own intimate desires. Their endeavors - however disparate - all encompass radical decisions against the backdrop of what we call intimate uncertainties. It is our contention that the current border regime of the European Union creates unprecedented settings of uncertainty shaping the intimate as a new site of power. We will analyze how this takes place on a transnational scale inside and outside of Schengen borders. We argue that intimacies are contested sites of power because they play out shifting tensions and encompass dichotomous spheres: security and freedom, life and death, private and public, local and global. Following Zygmunt Bauman, Judith Butler and Didier Fassin, we believe that these fluctuating intimate relations are deeply entangled with global moral obligations. In a globalizing world, precarity - as both inherent to our human condition and politically and economically defined - creates new social inequalities and urgently calls for a growing moral responsibility. The moral economy - as defined by Fassin as the government of emotions, norms and values - pertains this global responsibility. By means of three ethnographic studies, we will investigate the current context of global uncertainty and trace how the actors we are interested in negotiate, facilitate and constrain intimate desires, anxieties and values in new ways. Sub-project A addresses the lethality of EU border management in Andalusia (Spain) by looking at the migrants who die when they cross the border. The aim is to explore how new technologies of power and governance engender new moralities - understood as emotional and moral justifications of social practices, such as border control, the treatment of bodies, burial, and the cultural and political ways of remembrance, including grieving processes. This project addresses these moral assemblages and tackles the intimate experiences involved with migrant death. Sub-project B sheds light on the circumstances surrounding Germany’s transplant system and its ambivalences that causes people to cross EU borders to receive transplants. Under study will be the transnational interrelations of patients, surgeons and donors at three levels: states governing, clinics practicing and individuals intimately experiencing organ transplants. This sub-project focuses on precarity and moral obligations involved when patients face serious health problems, as well as the practices of moralities when a part of the body is exchanged from one person to the other. The study of these precarious lives on the threshold of life and death will contribute to a deeper understanding of the moral economy across EU borders. Sub-project C focuses on the perspectives and experiences of egg donors and surrogates in Russia. Since the mid-2000s, Russia has been evolving into a popular destination for so-called “fertility travellers” from the European Union and the global North. This ethnographic study will investigate the (intimate) encounters of different actors (donors/surrogates, medics, intermediaries) taking part in circuits of transnational reproduction. Prospective parents and donors/surrogates are conceptualized as in a state of precariousness, as both parties walk a fine line between coercion and free choice, creating life and taking risks by following their desires and needs.