Alya Guseva

Associate Professor

I am an economic sociologist with interests in money, finance, morality and market emergence. To date, I published two books on this subject: Into the Red: The Birth of the Credit Card Market in Postcommunist Russia (2008) and Plastic Money: Constructing Markets for Credit Cards in Eight Postcommunist Countries, co-authored with Akos Rona-Tas (2014). Together with Dilyara Ibragimova (Research University-Higher School of Economics), we have also investigated how Russian spouses manage household money, and what it says about power and inequality in intrafamily relations.

I am also a medical sociologist with a long-standing interest in biomedical markets (human reproduction, human organs, tissues and gametes, clinical labor, etc.), healthcare and healthcare policy. I am currently working on my third book, which is tentatively entitled Medicine, Markets and Morality. It is focused on moral, legal and organizational aspects of markets for gestational surrogacy in Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan, and is based on dozens of interviews with fertility doctors, embryologists, heads of assistant reproductive clinics, the leadership of national associations of reproductive medicine in the three countries, owners and managers of surrogacy agencies, lawyers, and a few surrogate mothers; participant observation at several professional symposia of reproductive medicine and reproductive law; and analyses of publicly available data. Despite the many similarities between the three countries in terms of legality and legitimacy of surrogacy – it is only available on medical grounds, and generally defined as “a medical technology and a treatment for infertility,” which is a reflection of the incumbent status of the medical professionals in exerting control over the surrogacy field – there are important differences, too. Thanks to its well-developed reproductive medicine and moderate prices, Ukraine has recently emerged as the Mecca for global gestational surrogacy, and by some estimates it is now rivalling the oldest and the least restrictive but much more expensive surrogacy market of the United States. I am tracing changes in how power is distributed in surrogacy fields – the power to define “what the field is all about,” what the rules are, and who is in and who is out. In particular, I have been following a recent slew of scandals that shook the Ukrainian surrogacy field, some connected to COVID-related travel restrictions. Scandals are an excellent lens to study field-level struggles because the tensions that ordinarily lurk below the surface are brought into full view, and field actors are forced to clearly articulate or, sometimes, defend their moral positions. See this for the recent overview of my work on surrogacy.

I teach classes on economic sociology, medical markets and health and healthcare, and I supervise PhD students interested in economic and medical sociology.

Curriculum Vitae