Professor Andrea Büchler

Time Out for Research

Text by Silvana Rohner

swissnex San Francisco welcomes University of Zurich Law Professor Andrea Büchler as a resident during her summer 2015 sabbatical.

Chair of Private and Comparative Law at the Faculty of Law in Zurich and responsible for the department’s International Relations, Büchler comes with strong ties to the Bay Area, though this is her first visit to swissnex San Francisco.

Büchler was a visiting professor at Boalt Hall Law School at UC Berkeley in 2011, where she lectured on Islamic and Middle Eastern Law. Her strong relationship with UC Berkeley has proven fruitful for the University of Zurich. She was involved in establishing the double degree master’s program in law between the University of Zurich and UC Berkeley, for example.

International Surrogacy Law

Büchler, who recently spent two months in India conducting research around the topic of surrogacy and its legal intricacies, is an expert in the fields of medicine, family, and gender law.

“Surrogacy is an old topic that is becoming an international phenomenon and has developed a complex legal structure as more global players are involved,” Büchler says. “I’m looking into the legal and cultural encounters of surrogacy between Europe and Asia.”

As some couples seek to have a child through surrogacy, she explains, they may spend time and money to travel, sometimes long distances, to countries with surrogacy-friendly jurisdictions in order to find a surrogate. They bypass the bans imposed on surrogacy in their own home country, but in so doing, create multifaceted legal and cultural encounters.

“I’m interested in current approaches in surrogacy law that attempt to understand divided motherhood as a triangular relationship,” she adds.

In the US, California’s guidelines around surrogacy are perhaps the most liberal. In comparison, all forms of surrogacy are prohibited under the Swiss constitution. In fact, Swiss law governing medically assisted reproduction is quite strict.

Büchler is spending her sabbatical at swissnex researching just these kinds of differences. When she heard about the residency (through a letter sent by her university), she instantly saw a chance to have a desk of her own along with downtime to focus on research and participate in events and discussions in her field in the Bay Area.

While in town, she’s writing a report for the Swiss Society of Jurists on the human right to have (or not have) a surrogate child, and what the legal and cultural implications are.

“It’s a report on the existential question about the nature of reproduction,” Büchler says. “What are the dimensions and the scope of reproductive autonomy? And how are medicine, new technologies, society, and so on constantly re-shaping our understanding of it?”


Enriching her work

Given her specialty and background (she was co-director of the Gender Studies Centre at the University of Zurich), Büchler pleased to participate in swissnex San Francisco’s June conference and performances around gender, (X)change, which included her Swiss colleagues Dominique Grisard from the University of Basel and Cynthia Krauss from the University of Lausanne.

When asked what a sabbatical means for her, Büchler says, “It’s a time to invest in your research. You are exempt from your teaching load and you finally have time to investigate in depth those burning questions that are always at the back of your mind.”

swissnex San Francisco is happy to give her the space she needs to do just that, and to learn and connect the dots with her in her field.