P20
New immortalities: anthropological reflections on the procurement, transformation and use of human cadaveric tissue

Convenors:
Bob Simpson (Durham University)
Rachel Douglas-Jones (IT University Copenhagen)
Location:
Playfair Building, Main Hall
Start time:
22 June, 2014 at 9:00
Session slots:
3

Short abstract:

We will explore emergent issues around ethics, value and recycling in relation to cadaveric materials and the drive to realise this-worldly potential in the bodies of the newly dead in a variety of ethnographic settings.

Long abstract:

In this panel we will explore emergent issues around ethics, value and recycling in relation to cadaveric materials. We set out to explore the drive to realise increasing this-worldly potential in the bodies of the newly dead and the way that this intersects with religion, culture, and kinship in a variety of ethnographic settings to produce 'new immortalities'. In one sense, these questions are not new and are to be found in key enlightenment debates about medical research and its relation to prevailing ideas about death, immortality and religion. What is changing is the widening repertoire of materials that might now acquire moral, scientific and economic value as organs and tissue for transplantation, as a source of research specimens, and for use in medical education and training. From the perspective of those charged with immediate responsibility for the dead - kin, friends, community - existing regimes are typically cast in the idiom of donation, charity and the continuing agency of the dead as moral beings. However, the ethical and practical regimes to which the dead are subjected also increasingly overlap with instrumental and utilitarian approaches to the material body. These occur at the points where medicine and law as expressions of state and economic interests come into play. We welcome papers that bring descriptive and analytical focus onto the ways in which the diverse values and sentiments that attach to the body at death in different communities are transformed into generalised notions of value and sentiment.