The project began last week, and so it was a fitting time to present the outline and research questions of this study to the British medical sociology community at the annual BSA MedSoc conference, which was held at the University of York.
The presentation explored some of the issues surrounding UK stem cell donation as it relates to Black, Asian and minority ethnicity (BAME) and mixed raced communities, particularly the disparity in chances of finding a tissue match (issues that are outlined in a recent report by Eleanor Smith MP, that you can read via the National BAME Transplant Alliance).
My presentation also went into some detail about the fieldword I’ll be starting to do this Autumn, describing the shape of the ethnographic work I’ll be undertaking with three different organisations, the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT), Race Against Blood Cancer, and the Team Margot Foundation. Finally, it touched upon the role of social media, another focus of the project.
The audience at the conference really engaged with the paper. Dr. Jessie Cooper, a sociologist of health from City, University of London, has done some really important work around how BAME people are encouraged to register as potential organ donors. She was in the audience, and noted how when she was doing the fieldwork around ten years ago for her organ donation project studying NHS Blood and Transplant, the issue of mixed raced donation didn’t seem as prevalent.
We discussed the possibility that this may be partly because of the demographic increase in self-identified mixed raced people in the last two decades, centring this as a policy issue. But it will also be interesting to consider, through the life of the project, how (or even if!) a concern with mixed raced donation may have become more of a focus in recent years and what the complexities of this might be for those working in the area, and for more general understandings of mixed identity.
The organisations I am undertaking an ethnography with, Team Margot Foundation in particular, are partly focused on specifically raising awareness around mixed raced donation, and a significant part of Mix and Match is (if the name isn’t enough of a give away!) concerned with exploring what the idea of “mixedness” is up to in this context.