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14 - #Transracial

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 December 2021

Eben Kirksey
Affiliation:
Deakin University, Victoria
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Summary

Tamara Pertamina, a transgender artist who lives in a sprawling Southeast Asian slum, hopes to decolonize the science of genetic engineering. One day in June 2018 she borrowed a cart from a street food vendor and gave it a quick makeover. A hand-painted sign and logo announced, “CRISPR Sperm Bank: Experience Trans-Species Possibilities.” The food cart was a makeshift wooden contraption that balanced on bicycle wheels—a common sight on the streets of Yogyakarta, an Indonesian city with vibrant night markets and a cutting-edge arts community. While Jiankui He was quietly proceeding with his experiment in Shenzhen some 2,000 miles to the north, Tamara was dreaming about how biotechnology innovations in China and the United States would have reverberating impacts on the rest of the world.

As Tamara pushed her makeshift CRISPR Sperm Bank through the streets with some of her transgender friends, most passersby were startled and amused. The project was a surprise installation on the sidelines of Art Jog 2018, an international festival. Catcalls from young Indonesian boys on motorbikes—“I want to buy some!”—suggested that they didn't understand the English-language sign. The boys seemed to think that Tamara and the others were sex workers rather than performance artists.

The cart actually held supplies for cendol, a sweet dessert, consisting of ice with coconut milk, palm sugar syrup, and a variety of toppings: diced jackfruit, green mung beans, and small wormy shapes made of jelly. They just borrowed the cart from a street food vendor for the afternoon, for a small fee. After Tamara parked the cart at Art Jog, some of her friends spied the coconut milk in an unlabeled bottle and thought it was semen. The project was startling in part because even normal sperm banks are outlawed in Indonesia.

Tamara did not actually genetically modify any human sperm. Instead, she used the CRISPR Sperm Bank as a conversation piece to generate dialogue about possible futures for humanity. Among other pressing questions, she wanted to know: If parents have the option to choose the skin color of their children, will the future have a place for brown and black babies?

Type
Chapter
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The Mutant Project
Inside the Global Race to Genetically Modify Humans
, pp. 149 - 161
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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  • #Transracial
  • Eben Kirksey, Deakin University, Victoria
  • Book: The Mutant Project
  • Online publication: 18 December 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.46692/9781529217315.015
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Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

  • #Transracial
  • Eben Kirksey, Deakin University, Victoria
  • Book: The Mutant Project
  • Online publication: 18 December 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.46692/9781529217315.015
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • #Transracial
  • Eben Kirksey, Deakin University, Victoria
  • Book: The Mutant Project
  • Online publication: 18 December 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.46692/9781529217315.015
Available formats
×