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Emerging from ethnographic fieldwork in North and South India, this seminar engages with the uses and abuses of marriage and commitment as tropes to bolster the desire for seeking assisted reproduction in India. The focus is on two demographics navigating marriage and fertility: the elderly postmenopausal couples seeking assisted conception to overturn decades of childlessness; and the newly married young city dwellers who are finding it difficult to conceive ‘naturally’.

In focus are the ways in which the sacramental value of Hindu marriage becomes a marker of legitimacy and repeated visits to the IVF clinic. Within such a rhetoric is the imagination around ‘commitment’ and the desire to perpetuate a particular form of narrative that is both gendered and ageist in its orientation. But hidden within the overriding desire for children to cement patriarchal unions are other practices that often go unnoticed: the bigamous illegal unions between older men and younger women; the desire to birth a son to continue the patrilineage; and the stigma surrounding sexuality within the heteronormative marital bond.

To unearth the complex narratives that make up the diverse, conflicting narratives around infertility, marriage and desire, Assistant Professor Anindita Majumdar, dig's deep into the established canonical literature on marriage in South Asia with its diverse linkages to structural theory, agency and personhood.

This is a hybrid event, with a limited number of in-person tickets. Instructions on how to join the event online, will be sent to registered guests. Refreshments will be served at the event.


Assistant Professor Anindita Majumdar, Liberal Arts, Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad)

Anindita Majumdar has been researching on commercial surrogacy, kinship and infertility since 2010. Her book based on her ethnographic research was published in 2017 by Oxford University Press, and is titled Transnational Commercial Surrogacy and the (Un)Making of Kin in India. She has also published The Oxford India Short Introductions: Surrogacy in 2019.

In 2018, Anindita was awarded the Wellcome UK Small Grants to research on ageing and assisted reproduction, and the Indian Council of Social Science Research Grant to study postmenopausal conception. Data from these research studies has led to the publication of thematic special issues co-edited and edited by Anindita with Contemporary South Asia, Anthropology and Aging, Reproductive Biomedicine and Society Online, Asian Journal of Women’s Studies and Asian Bioethics Review.

She is on the international advisory board of the journal Medicine, Anthropology, Theory, and is an external member of Center for Reproductive Health (CORTH) at the University of Sussex.


Dr Lucy van de Wiel, Global Health and Social Medicine, King’s College London

Lucy van de Wiel is a Lecturer and Director of Postgraduate Research in Global Health and Social Medicine at King’s College London. She is also a work package coordinator in the Wellcome-funded collaborative research project Changing Infertilities, which is based at the Reproductive Sociology Research Group (ReproSoc), University of Cambridge.

She is the author of Freezing Fertility (NYU Press, 2020) and featured in the documentary inspired by the book, also titled Freezing Fertility (VPRO Backlight, 2021).

At this event

Lucy van de Wiel

Lecturer in Global Health & Social Medicine

Event details

SW -2.09 & -2.07
Somerset House East Wing
Strand Campus, Strand, London WC2R 2LS