Cultural reckonings with race so often direct us to the family, as a web of intimate inheritances and genealogical truths. Axiomatic notions of racial transmission suture race firmly to (hetero)sexual reproduction, constructing it as a biological substance inherited from one’s parents, despite race having no genetic basis. An inquiry about someone’s race is a desire to reveal the truth of the body through placing it in a web of racialised reproduction. As Alys Eve Weinbaum (2004) has argued, the concepts are so entwined, they constitute a single bind: race/reproduction. If this is so, to what extent does a reconfiguration of the reproductive process enact a reconfiguration of race?
In this thesis, I pursue this question by foregrounding a family form that troubles our understandings of racial transmission: the queer family created through third party reproduction, specifically, gamete donation and surrogacy. These families emerge through broad changes sweeping the domain of contemporary intimate citizenship. Namely, sexual subjectivity is shifting in a post-gay marriage era, and a booming global fertility industry has not only embedded reproduction in transnational and multiracial labour circuits at a vast scale, but has reconstituted biology itself (Franklin 2013).
In queer families conceived via third party reproduction, a child’s race is decoupled from parental inheritance and rendered a substance to be more actively choreographed in the forging of kinship ties. I attend to the particularity and multiplicity of such choreographies through interviews with queer people in Sydney and Melbourne who have conceived, or are planning to conceive, via third party reproduction. In exploring their narratives, I foreground three salient sites of racialisation, which we may also conceptualise as reproductive substances: the gene, and its obdurate truth status even in a postgenomic age; gestation, and its remaking as a racialising and non-racialising process in different contexts; and love, as both a dominant discourse of queer sexual citizenship today, and a deracialising tool in multicultural settler states like Australia.
Through feminist science studies, affect theory and critical race theory, this thesis offers an extended theorisation of race as foremost an intimate and affective system, onto which shifting biological logics are overlaid. In contrast to the affective intensity of racial boundary crossing in wrongful insemination and custody cases, which have long captivated feminist thought on reproduction, my focus is on how race animates the ordinary hum of kinship even, or perhaps especially, when it is unfolding according to plan. This focus reveals race as a technology of intimate attachment that is made and remade through everyday encounter. Ultimately, I elaborate an anti-racist approach to queer kinship that entwines the expansive relationality of queer thinking on intimacy with a theorisation of racism not as an exceptional event, but as the ordinary fabric of reproducing bodies.