Accepted Paper:

No Heroics, Please: Renderings and Disruptions of Bodies in Organ Donation Medical Practices  


Sara Bea (Linköping University)

Paper short abstract:

An ethnographic exercise to advance alternative ways of theorising the body that circumvent the subject/object dualism. It presents a different set of inclusions and exclusions that disrupt reified conceptualisations of bodies as objects, owned and defined by subjects as autonomous individuals

Paper long abstract:

This work is an ethnographic exploration of a distinctive intersection of medicine and bodies: deceased organ donation for transplantation. Existing social science literature has either portrayed the donor as an autonomous subject inscribed within the gift rhetoric of moral choice, or denounced the hospital professionals and organ procurement practices that turn bodies into commodified medical objects. In order to leave behind the subject/object dualism and the inevitable exclusions it engenders, such as relegating the body to mute externality awaiting definition or reinforcing modernist accounts of bodies as property owned by the individual subject. This study proposes instead the decentering of the individual donor as well as the medical professionals; the focus shifts to relational processes and materiality. The result is an in-depth mapping of the situated and contingent interdependencies that conform the specific medical practices of organ donation in a hospital in Barcelona. The empirical accounts I will present bring forward novel renderings of donors qua bodies - bodies that act and intervene and present various availabilities and resistances to the medical practices and embedded rationalities. The donor/body made intelligible within the given practices disrupts and displaces different individual boundaries by highlighting the collective dimension of bodies. I wish to elucidate on ways of mobilising such empirical theorising of the body beyond academia and into the medical practices and public health policy spheres. In particular, I will be addressing the current organ shortage problematisations and the proposed ways to increase donation rates in the European Union.

Panel T057
Non-conforming bodies: an exploration of public health knowledge, practice and technologies beyond 'the body'