AAA/CASCA Executive Program Committee
Executive Session - Oral Presentation Session
Since 2007 I have carried out fieldwork and collaborated with staff at China’s largest sperm bank in Changsha, demonstrating how the reproductive bioavailability latent in the annual cohorts of young male university students depended on cyclical mobilization, formation and extraction of successive populations of bioavailable sperm donors. Over the years I have found that my collaborators face an increasing struggle to recruit. Some attribute this increase in recruitment issues to the fact that according to their archived records “semen quality among young Chinese men has declined over a period of fifteen years”. Through discussions with andrologists, sperm bank staff and donors, I have come to theorize this decrease in terms of exposed biologies. Among the staff there is a prevailing sense that exposure to toxins is the primary cause of falling sperm counts, and that younger men are better recruitment targets because they were less exposed to the environmental crisis. Moreover the andrologists insist that detectable chemo-markers can now be found in nearly all semen samples. It seems that this sense of exposed biologies is partially responsible for the sperm bank policy of encouraging reproductive insurance for young men who are “working in long-term jobs where they are exposed to a large amount of radiation or poisonous substances.” In this paper I reflect on how my ongoing collaboration with these scientists to trace the effects of exposed biologies might contribute to the ongoing configuration of falling sperm counts and toxic living as a matter of concern in China and beyond.