Tissue Donations Beyond the Gift of Life

White Rose Vital Circulations Network Symposium 2 

Universities of Leeds, York and Sheffield 

27-28 April 2022 (Online) 

With the growing demand for transplant, transfusion and biomedical and genomic research, human bodies and tissues have come to circulate widely across domains and boundaries, stirring up discussions around virtues of giving, sharing, and recycling. As much as the accelerated circulations draw on imaginations of social ties and solidarity across bodily boundaries, differential valuations of bodies and lives continue to haunt these circulations. In turn, the personhoods of tissues are reconstituted along striations of race/ethnicity, sex/gender, class/caste, among others. The collection, storage and (re)usage of human tissues, then, not only beg ethical and legal concerns around voluntary consent, but further raise fundamental questions about how our personhood and humanity are reformulated through social differentiations and hierarchies, as the binaries of gift and commodities, and life and death are unsettled. Bringing together researchers, practitioners and artists, this symposium asks: How do tissue donations illustrate the social and affective dimensions of distributing care? Does this occur in a just and equitable manner? How is the quality of life attributed, and whose longevities are prioritised within the expertise of health systems? The speakers take us through various sites of tissue circulations from cadaver donations to embryo adoption. 

This symposium is organised by the White Rose Vital Circulations Network, as the second segment in the tri-part symposia series exploring the social dynamics around the circulations of vital and viral matter. You can find out more about the network and its activities on and by following @vitacirc on Twitter.  


Wednesday 27 April 2022 

(Online BST 10:00-17:00, 25 mins per individual session) 

Anna Macdonald and Amy Voris: Ways of doing things 

Ways of doing things by Anna Macdonald is a live, online performance, experienced by one person at a time, that uses movement to explore the relationship between donation and consent. During the performance, people are invited to make patterns, matches and shapes, in response to the performer’s hands, and donate these gestures to the artwork. Each small hand dance is added, with the viewer’s consent, to a growing map of other people’s gestures, creating an online database of movement.  

Ways of doing things was funded by the Wellcome Trust and originally commissioned for One Cell at a Time, an exhibition responding to the Human Cell Atlas, which is an international collaborative consortium who are creating reference maps of all human cells. This performance forms part of a larger body of work by the artist, responding to the complex issue of tissue donation, which involved a year-long series of movement workshops, public talks, interviews and conversations with both members of the public and HCA researchers. A significant part of this research involved the artist working intensively for six months with people who are experts in giving and receiving; one, a group of transplant recipients and the other, a group of young caregivers. The project continues the artist’s ongoing fascination with the relationship between the body and time, bringing attention to the immediacy of consent, and the longevity of research whose impact extends beyond our lifetime. Places are very limited, you can sign up here (first come first served basis): 

Thursday 28 April 2022 

(Zoom, BST 10:00-15:30) 

Please register for the symposium here:

10-10:15 Opening: ‘Vital Circulations’ (Nik Brown, University of York) 

Morning Session 

(Chair: Jieun Kim, University of Leeds) 

10:15-10:30 ‘Troubling Tissue Donations’ (Jieun Kim & Marie-Andrée Jacob, University of Leeds) 

10:30-11:00 Jessie Cooper (City, University of London), ‘Re-making boundaries between patient and potential organ donor: The case of organ donation after circulatory death in the UK’ 

11:00-11:30 Rachel Douglas-Jones (IT University of Copenhagen), ‘Silent mentors: Virtues of donation, education, and bodies in Taiwan’ 

11:30-12:00 Anna Macdonald (Central St Martins UAL) ‘Ways of doing things (2021) and the choreography of consent’ 

12:00-12:30 Discussion (Moderator: Marie-Andrée Jacob, University of Leeds) 

12:30-13:30 Lunch break 

Afternoon Session 

(Chair: Lijiaozi Cheng, University of Sheffield)  

13:30-14:00 Risa Cromer (Purdue University), ‘Mark(et)ing Race in US Embryo Adoption’ 

14:00-14:30 Ciara Kierans (University of Liverpool), ‘Organs-for-transplant in Mexico: the limits of biotechnical care’ 

14:30-15:00 Jessica Porter (Human Tissue Authority), ‘The Existing Legal Framework and the Regulatory Challenges’ 

15:00-15:30 Discussion (Moderator: Ros Williams, University of Sheffield)