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The global trade in health and disease

Lecturer: Roberta Bivins

As medical systems around the world become increasingly intertwined, and as medical professionals and at least certain classes of medical consumers become increasingly mobile, the medical marketplace has come to include two apparently novel trades: ‘fertility tourism’ and the global trade in organs. Here we will examine the historical antecedents and cultural roots of these industries, as well as their ethical complexity and social impacts.

Discussion/Essay Questions:

  • What can historical analysis offer to debates over fertility tourism OR the organ trade?
  • How have perceptions of ‘donors’ and ‘recipients’ of human tissues changed since the nineteenth century?

Required Readings


Cynthia R Daniels, Janet Golden, ‘Procreative Compounds: Popular Eugenics, Artificial Insemination and the Rise of the American Sperm Banking Industry’, Journal of Social History, 38 (2004), pp. 5-27; and

Susanne Lundin, ‘"I Want a Baby; Don't Stop Me From Being a Mother": An Ethnographic Study on Fertility Tourism and Egg Trade’, Cultural Politics, 8 (2012), pp. 327-344. Both are in e-journals.


Susan Lederer, Flesh and Blood: Organ Transplantation and Blood Transfusion in Twentieth Century America (Oxford: OUP 2008), ‘Banking on the Body’, 68-106 (e-book); and

Farhat Moazam, Riffat Moazam Zaman, Aamir M. Jafarey, ‘Conversations with Kidney Vendors in Pakistan: An Ethnographic Study’, Hastings Center Report, Volume 39, Number 3, May-June 2009, pp. 29-44 (E-journal).

Further Readings:

Veena Das, 'The Practice of Organ Transplants: Networks, Documents, Translations', in Margaret Lock, Allan Young, Alberto Cambrosio, eds, Living and Working with the New Medical Technologies: Intersections of Inquiry (Cambridge, 2000), pp. 263-287.

Donna Dickenson, Body Shopping: The Economy Fuelled by Flesh and Blood (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2008), esp. Chapters 1,2,5,8.

Renee C. Fox and Judith P. Swazey, Spare Parts: Organ Replacement in American Society (Oxford, 1992)

Janet Golden, ‘From Wet Nurse Directory to Milk Bank: The Delivery of Human Milk in Boston, 1909-1927’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 62 (1988), pp. 589-605. e-journal

Michele Goodwin, ed., The Global Body Market: Altruism's Limits (Cambridge University Press, 2013) e-book

Yael Hashiloni-Dolev, ‘Between Mothers, Fetuses and Society: Reproductive Genetics in the Israeli-Jewish Context’, Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues, 12 (2006), pp. 129-150. e-journal

Ellen Herman, ‘Families Made by Science: Arnold Gesell and the Technologies of Modern Child Adoption’, Isis, 92 (2001), pp. 684-715. e-journal

Linda Hogle, Recovering the Nation’s Body: Cultural Memory, Medicine and the Politics of Redemption (New Brunswick NJ, 1999). Chapter 2 for pre-modern trade in bodily substances; Chapters 3 and 4 for German case studies, pre and post WWII.

E. T. Hurren, 'Whose Body is it Anyway? Trading the Dead Poor, Coroner's Disputes and the Business of Anatomy at Oxford University, 1885-1929', Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 82 (2008), pp. 775-819. e-journal

Hannah Landecker, 'Between Beneficence and Chattel: The Human Biological in Law and Science', Science in Context, 12 (1999), pp. 203-225. e-journal

Susanne Lundin, ‘"I Want a Baby; Don't Stop Me From Being a Mother": An Ethnographic Study on Fertility Tourism and Egg Trade’, Cultural Politics, 8 (2012), pp. 327-344. e-journal

Kim Pelis, ‘“A band of lunatics down Camberwell way”: Percy Lane Oliver and Voluntary Blood Donation in Interwar Britain; in Roberta Bivins and John Pickstone (eds), Medicine, Madness and Social History: Essays in Honour of Roy Porter (Basingstoke, 2007), pp. 148-160. e-book.

Kim Pelis, ‘Transfusion with Teeth’, in Robert Bud, Bernard Finn, and Helmuth Trischler (eds), Manifesting Medicine: Bodies and Machines (Amsterdam, 1999), pp. 1–29.

Kim Pelis, ‘Blood Clots: The Nineteenth Century Debate Over the Substance and Means of Transfusion in Britain’, Annals of Science, 54 (1997), pp. 331–60. e-journal

Richard M. Titmuss, The Gift Relationship: From Human Blood to Social Policy (London, 1970).

Jane Piliavin, Peter Callero, Giving Blood: The Development of an Altruistic Identity (Baltimore, 1991).

Nancy Scheper-Hughes, ‘The Ends of the Body--Commodity Fetishism and the Global Traffic in Organs’, SAIS Review, 22, (2002), pp. 61-80. e-journal

William H. Schneider, ‘Blood Transfusion Between the Wars’, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 58 (2003), pp. 187-224. e-journal

Kara W. Swanson, ‘Body Banks: A History of Milk Banks, Blood Banks, and Sperm Banks in the United States’, Enterprise & Society, 12 (2011), pp. 749-760. e-journal

Catherine Waldby, Robert Mitchell Tissue Economies: Blood, Organs, and Cell Lines in Late Capitalism, (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006).