In March of 2015, Reprosoc held a small workshop on the theme of “China Repro Tech”. During this two-day event, workshop participants discussed pre-circulated chapters of forthcoming manuscripts by Dr. Ayo Wahlberg, a Lecturer at the University of Copenhagen’s Institute of Anthropology and Dr. Janelle Lamoreaux, a Research Associate in ReproSoc. Ayo’s book, currently titled Good Quality, is an exploration of the formation and routinization of sperm freezing in China. Lamoreaux’s book, currently titled Infertile Futures, is a portrayal of reproductive toxicology in China, with a strong emphasis on how toxicologists investigate relationships between sperm decline and environmental decline. The format of the day included brief presentations of materials by opposite contributors, followed by general comments from the remaining participants. Additional participants included Professor Sarah Franklin, Dr. Joy Zhang, a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at University of Kent, and Dr. Katie Dow, a Research Associate at Reprosoc.
Some of the most thought provoking discussion came from thinking further about the particularities of sperm research and freezing in China. The ways in which concerns about national population quality overlap with concerns about national sperm quality was evident in both book excerpts, leading us to think more about how fertility and reproduction are never simply personal issues but fundamental concerns of individuals and the state that have to do with economic, technological and kinship spheres. Moreover, recent concerns about the deteriorating environment turn sperm into an indicator of environmental change (as Lamoreaux highlights) or a tool for preservation in the face of environmental deterioration (as explored by Wahlberg). The conversation had - between people, texts, disciplinary concentrations, and technologies - was inspirational for everyone involved.
Participants also discussed forthcoming activities to take place in Cambridge related to reproductive technologies (broadly understood) and China, including another workshop in the fall. Tentatively scheduled for 22-23 October 2015, this workshop will bring together scholars from around the world who have conducted or are currently conducting research in China related to reproductive health, technologies, and medicine. More details will be available this summer, or contact Janelle at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.