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Vital Labors: Transacting Oocytes across Borders in the Post-Soviet Space

By Madeleine Reeves

Cite As:
Reeves, Madeleine. 2022. “Vital Labors: Transacting Oocytes across Borders in the Post-Soviet Space.” Cultural Anthropology 37, no. 1: 23–29.


Anthropological accounts of labor mobility in the post-Soviet region have tended to focus on the commoditization, securitization, and illegalization of migrant wage labor, rather than on the generation of surplus through the harnessing of mobile life itself. Bringing together discussions of “clinical labor” (Cooper and Waldby 2014) with analysis of migrant wage work, the essay explores strategies of transnational recruitment for supposed Asian oocyte vendors by Russian, Georgian, and Ukrainian fertility clinics seeking to meet a growing demand for donor eggs for Chinese commissioning couples. In this bioeconomy, value is generated from the differential mobility and transactional value of human and nonhuman bodies, body parts, and genetic material across territorial, administrative, and juridical borders. The essay investigates how the recruitment of oocyte vendors intersects with other unequal circuits of movement to argue for an expanded account of labor migration in the post-Soviet space.


bioeconomy; migration; oocytes; clinical labor