Gendering the Gift of Life: Family Politics and Kidney Donation in Egypt and Mexico

Megan Crowley-Matoka*, Sherine F. Hamdy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


In this article, we demonstrate how living kidney donation is a particularly gendered experience. We draw on anthropologists’ contributions to understanding the globalization of reproductive technologies to argue that kidney donation similarly endangers and preserves fertility, thereby unsettling and reifying gendered familial labor. Based on fieldwork in two ethnographic sites—Egypt and Mexico—we examine how kidney donation is figured as a form of social reproduction. In both settings, kidney recipients rely almost exclusively on organs from living donors. We focus on how particular gender ideologies—as evident, for example, in the trope of the “self-sacrificing mother”—can serve as a cultural technology to generate donations in an otherwise organ-scarce medical setting. Alternatively, transplantation can disrupt gender norms and reproductive viability. In demonstrating the pervasiveness of gendered tropes in the realm of transplantation, we unsettle assumptions about the “family” as the locus of pure, altruistic donation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-44
Number of pages14
JournalMedical Anthropology: Cross Cultural Studies in Health and Illness
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2016


  • Egypt
  • Mexico
  • gender
  • living donors
  • organ transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Anthropology


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