In The Transplant Imaginary, author Lesley Sharp explores
the extraordinarily surgically successful realm of organ
transplantation, which is plagued worldwide by the scarcity of
donated human parts, a quandary that generates ongoing debates over
the marketing of organs as patients die waiting for replacements.
These widespread anxieties within and beyond medicine over organ
scarcity inspire seemingly futuristic trajectories in other fields.
Especially prominent, longstanding, and promising domains include
xenotransplantation, or efforts to cull fleshy organs from animals
for human use, and bioengineering, a field peopled with "tinkerers"
intent on designing implantable mechanical devices, where the heart
is of special interest.
Scarcity, suffering, and sacrifice are pervasive and, seemingly,
inescapable themes that frame the transplant imaginary.
Xenotransplant experts and bioengineers at work in labs in five
Anglophone countries share a marked determination to eliminate
scarcity and human suffering, certain that their efforts might one
day altogether eliminate any need for parts of human origin. A
premise that drives Sharp's compelling ethnographic project is that
high-stakes experimentation inspires moral thinking, informing
scientists' determination to redirect the surgical trajectory of
transplantation and, ultimately, alter the integrity of the human
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