Sebastian Mohr, Assistant Professor, Department of Education, Aarhus University

Matter out of place – the material-semiotic dimensions of working with semen

Whether semen can be thought of as what Mary Douglas termed matter out of place depends on the context in which it is encountered. As part of sperm donation much of the legitimacy of working with semen relies on societal accept of interventions in reproduction, professional standard working procedures, and not least legislation. Based on ethnographic fieldwork at Danish and American sperm banks and interviews with Danish sperm donors, I look at how semen’s status as matter out of place is managed through material-semiotic pratices in semen laboratories. I take departure in affective encounters with semen by sperm donors and laboratory staff and look at how donors as well as laboratory staff handle these kinds of encounters. I argue that legitimazing laboratory work with semen samples involves the material-semiotic dimensions of semen and the management of semen’s potential to transgress personal and symbolic boundaries of purity.

All seminars in the series.