The Margaret Lock Seminar

In honour of her 85th birthday in February 2021, the Department of Social Studies of Medicine is naming an annual departmental seminar after medical anthropologist Margaret Lock, one of the founding faculty members of the department. The Margaret Lock Seminar will showcase work in medical anthropology and closely related fields, focusing on scholars who engage topics in deep and committed ways, who offer nuanced analyses in global perspective, reflecting the spirit and richness of Professor Lock’s scholarship. SSoM faculty will collaborate with medical anthropologists in the Department of Anthropology to identify and invite speakers. The yearly Margaret Lock Seminar will also be an occasion to announce the student winner of the Margaret Lock Prize. The Margaret Lock Seminar will contribute to the continuous strengthening of ties between SSoM and Anthropology at McGill University.

Wednesday 21 February 2024

2:30 -4:00 PM 3647 Peel Street Room 101


Eric Plemons, University of Arizona      Eric Plemons

What to Make of Me: penile and uterine transplant and the surgical future of sex

At the turn of the 21st century, surgeons announced a new use for transplant technology. No longer focused exclusively on vital organs that are transplanted to save recipients’ lives, transplantation could also be used for non-vital body parts meant to “enhance” their lives. The first of these “life-enhancing transplants,” or vascularized composite allografts (VCAs), replaced lost hands, arms, and faces, and were motivated by a desire to improve recipients’ quality of life by restoring capacities that, while not needed to stay alive, advocates argued were necessary to live well. The newest life-enhancing, non-vital organs to be transplantable are uteruses and penises. Like other VCAs, the transplantation of these organs aims to improve recipients’ quality of life and, for the first time in the history of modern organ transplant, the quality of life they describe is a distinctly gendered one. While current practice relies on the explicit value of male virility and female maternity, efforts that center transgender desires and capacities may signal a very different future. In this talk, I explore the development and practice of penile and uterine transplant and consider the ethical and medical implications of ongoing efforts to incorporate transgender bodies as donors and recipients of these uniquely valuable body parts.



Past Speakers

Kaushik Sunder Rajan, University of Chicago, 15 February 2023

Nicole Charles, University of Toronto Mississauga, 23 February 2022







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