Good Quality: The Routinization of Sperm Banking in China
Professor Ayo Wahlberg from the Department of Anthropology has recently published the book ‘Good Quality: The Routinization of Sperm Banking in China,’ in which he explores sperm banking in China. Based on seven years of episodic fieldwork at China's and the world's largest fertility clinic and sperm bank, the book investigates the importance of selective reproductive technologies.
From its crude and uneasy beginnings thirty years ago, Chinese sperm banking has become a routine part of China’s pervasive and restrictive reproductive complex. Today, there are sperm banks in each of China’s twenty-two provinces, the biggest of which screen some three thousand to four thousand potential donors each year. Given the estimated one to two million azoospermic men--those who are unable to produce their own sperm--the demand remains insatiable. China’s twenty-two sperm banks cannot keep up, spurring sperm bank directors to publicly lament chronic shortages and even warn of a national ‘sperm crisis’ (jingzi weiji).
The book explores the issues behind the crisis, including declining sperm quality in the country due to environmental pollution, as well as a chronic national shortage of donors. In doing so, Ayo outlines the specific style of Chinese sperm banking that has emerged, shaped by the particular cultural, juridical, economic and social configurations that make up China’s restrictive reproductive complex. In the book, it is illustrated how this high-throughput style shapes the ways in which men experience donation and how sperm is made available to couples who can afford it.
Ayo Wahlberg, Good Quality: The Routinization of Sperm Banking in China, University of California Press, 2018.