Westerly Centre, UWA
School of Arts and Humanities
Research Background : This original story takes a feminist approach to emerging genetic technology through the perspective of a woman recruited to gestate a hybrid human-Neanderthal foetus. Harvard geneticist George Church called for future female volunteers to gestate a cloned Neanderthal (Der Spiegel 18/01/2013) and caused a sensation. 'The Exhibit' raises questions related to this emerging technology and gave rise to an ongoing research project examining its potential social impact.
Research Contribution : The story uses first person perspective to engage readers and invites them to participate in the emotional and moral dilemma which is the story’s central concern. Research involved engagement with scientific literature on this topic and on prenatal screening in order to accurately represent the stages of foetal development. It also draws from personal experience of prenatal screening.
Research Significance : Westerly journal is WA's premier literary publication, established in 1956 and is listed in the world’s major cultural indexes. This edition included posthumously published work by Randolph Stow and Dorothy Hewett. ‘The Exhibit’ won the 2015 Patricia Hackett prize for the best story published in Westerly that year. This prize has previously been won by major WA writers such as Kim Scott and Amanda Curtin. Westerly 60:1 was reviewed in Australian Book Review, where ‘The Exhibit’ was one of few works that attracted specific mention. ‘The Exhibit’ was also selected from the edition for a second publication on their website and attracted a broader audience and has been included in a reading list for creative writing students at University of Tasmania. ‘The Exhibit’ is the first in a collection of short stories entitled ‘Natural Deviations’, currently under consideration for funding from Australia Council for the Arts. This work explores the social and cultural impact of emerging genetic technology, including paleogenetics and regeneration technology.