Bonding with the Field: On Researching Surrogate Motherhood Arrangements in Israel
Dispatches from the Field, Neophyte Ethnographers in a Changing World, Andrew Gardner, David M. Hoffman, eds., Waveland Press, pp. 167-181, 2006
16 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2009 Last revised: 26 Jan 2016
Date Written: December 10, 2009
This essay addresses my perspective during the course of fieldwork on the topic of surrogate motherhood in Israel. In a surrogacy arrangement, a woman is contracted to bear a child for a couple to whom she will relinquish the child, usually in exchange for monetary reimbursement. Gestational surrogacy – the variant that I studied – refers to a specific variation of the process in which a fertilized egg, created through in-vitro fertilization from the intended couple’s gametes, is surgically implanted in the surrogate’s womb. Unlike an anthropologist who travels to a foreign country or conducts research for a limited period on a group to whom he or she is foreign, I am a Jewish-Israeli woman and live no more than six hours away from any of my informants. Therefore, my research has not been limited by time or place. As a result, I’ve been “in the field” for over seven years. During this time, I have kept in close contact with many of my informants, reinterviewing them repeatedly and taking part in their lives, to the point that many of my initial informants have turned into personal friends. It is the precarious anthropologist-informant relationship and the friendship that these relationships sometimes span that I address here.
Keywords: anthropology, fieldwork, anthropologist-informant relationships, surrogacy, surrogate motherhood, Israel, personal experience, bonding
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