Imagining transpecies kinship in xenotransplantation


  • Lesley A. Sharp



xenotransplantation, kinship, interspeciality, biotechnology, experimental science


Xenotransplantation, as a highly experimental realm of science, is plagued by serious moral concerns: driven in part by the imperative to alleviate human suffering in a medical realm plagued by a scarcity in human organs, xeno experts must nevertheless quell public concern over the use of animals as ‘donor’ species, and the potential threats xenografting poses to human body integrity. Embedded within the language of xeno science is an intriguing grammar of kinship, one which reorders unsettling ideas of ‘monstrous’ science as a legitimate field intent on establishing interspecies compatibility. As this essay illustrates, a logic of kinship abounds within the realm of organ transfer more generally, yet it takes on special meanings within the rarified world of experimental xenotransplantation, where a range of bodies—be they animal or human—occupy highly vulnerable positions in the scientific search for transpecies integrity.

Author Biography

Lesley A. Sharp

Lesley A. Sharp, a medical anthropologist by training, is Ann Whitney Olin Professor in Anthropology at Barnard College, and Senior Research Scientist in Sociomedical Sciences at Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University in New York City. She is author of 'Bodies, Commodities, and Biotechnologies: Death, Mourning and Scientific Desire in the Realm of Human Organ Transfer' (based on the 2004 Leonard Hastings Schoff Memorial Lectures, Columbia University) and 'Strange Harvest: Organ Transplants, Denatured Bodies, and the Transformed Self' (awarded the 2008 New Millennium Book Prize by the Society for Medical Anthropology).




How to Cite

Sharp, L. A. (2011). Imagining transpecies kinship in xenotransplantation. Sites: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies, 8(1), 12–39.