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Ayo Wahlberg

Ayo Wahlberg


Primary fields of research

Selective reproductive technologies (SRTs)

Over the last decades, selective reproductive technologies (SRTs) have come to be routinised throughout the world. Such technologies are used to prevent or promote the birth of certain 'kinds of children' (e.g. a child with a 'serious disease', a healthy child, a boy) through the selective fertilisation of gametes, implantation of embryos or abortion of foetuses. In my current project I am examining how sperm banking has become a regular part of the reproductive complex in China. Through an ethnographic study of China's largest sperm bank I am looking at how potential donors are recruited, screened and selected to help involuntarily childless couples within the framework of China's family planning policies. Studying selection practices in a sperm bank can give us insight into the ways in which reproductive technologies have become routinised in China.

See more here:

Traditional and alternative medicine (TM/CAM)

My PhD – Modernisation and Its Side Effects – was a comparative examination of the cotemporaneous revivals of traditional herbal medicine in Vietnam and the United Kingdom since the mid-20th century. I show how herbal medicine came to be mobilised in very different ways in the two national contexts, albeit within frameworks of modernisation/colonisation critique. In particular, I argue that the revival of herbal medicine in the United Kingdom played its part in the emergence of ‘a quackery with a difference’ as regulatory strategies of restricting access to herbal medicine were replaced by strategies aiming to responsibilise and normalise its practice and use. In Vietnam, I show how a national campaign to revive traditional herbal medicine was intimately linked to post-colonial nation-building efforts which were intent on reclaiming a subjugated ‘Vietnamese’ past and hence contributed to the making up of post-colonial Vietnamese subjectivities.

Read more in: Southern Medicine for Southern People: Vietnamese Medicine in the Making and Folk Healing and Health Care Practices in Britain and Ireland: Stethoscopes, Wands and Crystals.

Selected publications

Current research

In January 2011, I received a Sapere Aude Young Researcher award from the Danish Council of Independent Research for a three-year project entitled “Exchanging ‘good' life - socio-technical imaginaries in a Chinese sperm bank”. Through this project I will explore how scientists working in a Chinese sperm bank relate their daily work and routines in the laboratory to broader national concerns around reproduction - whether or not to reproduce, who should reproduce, how to reproduce? The ethical and social implications of, for example, China's one-child policy have been widely debated and explored. My research, on the other hand, aims to examine how reproductive scientists reflect on their work in relation to national aspirations, for example, to control population quantity and improve population quality.¿


My teaching is currently focused on anthropology of health, theory of science as well as the digital methods course KOVIKO (mapping scientific controversies). I always work to ensure that my own research from Asia is integrated into my teaching, while at the same time also promoting teaching-based research through class projects and collective problem formulations in the courses i teach.


I currently supervise in the following thematics/areas:

China, Vietnam, United Kingdom, medical anthropology, anthropology of science, science and technology studies, traditional medicine, alternative medicine, reproductive technologies, quality of life, life and biological/biomedical research, vitality, ethics of human subjects research, the social study of bioscience

ID: 14962343