Bodies, Commodities, and Biotechnologies

Bodies, Commodities, and Biotechnologies: Death, Mourning, and Scientific Desire in the Realm of Human Organ Transfer

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    Bodies, Commodities, and Biotechnologies
    Book Description:

    In the United States today, the human body defines a lucrative site of reusable parts, ranging from whole organs to minuscule and even microscopic tissues. Although the medical practices that enable the transfer of parts from one body to another most certainly relieve suffering and extend lives, they have also irrevocably altered perceptions of the cultural values assigned to the body.

    Organ transfer is rich terrain to investigate-especially in the American context, where sophisticated technological interventions have significantly shaped understandings of health and well-being, suffering, and death. In Bodies, Commodities, and Biotechnologies, Lesley Sharp probes the ideological assumptions underlying the transfer of body parts, the social significance of donors' deaths, and the medico-scientific desires surrounding complex forms of body repair. Sharp also considers the experimental realm, in which nonhuman species and artificial devices present further opportunities for recovery and for controversy.

    A compelling scientific investigation and social critique, Bodies, Commodities, and Biotechnologies explores the pervasive, and at times pernicious, practices shaping American biomedicine in the twenty-first century.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51098-1
    Subjects: Sociology, General Science, Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. 1-6)

    Solitude is a cherished aspect of quotidian life for scholars who work within the academy. Were it not for the classroom, the college or university professor might well assume that an interested public extends only as far as the limits of his or her own discipline, limits readily apparent during regularly attended yet highly specialized conferences or seminars. The invitation to deliver the Leonard Hastings Schoff Memorial Lectures, then, has been a double blessing for me. First, I consider it an extraordinary honor to be invited to present this series of three talks; second, doing so has tested my ability...

  6. ONE THE GOOD DEATH Managing and Memorializing the Dead
    (pp. 7-46)

    Human bodies are fascinating things, their morphology and capabilities central to scientific definitions of what or who we are as a species in both contemporary and evolutionary terms. In this society, we nevertheless consider each body to be unique: even when confronted with what we call “identical” twins, we make special effort to distinguish one from the other. We embellish our bodies, too, with elaborate forms of clothing and other accoutrements, and we paint, pierce, and reshape everything from faces and earlobes to teeth, chins, and buttocks. We tone the body and mold it through exercise and surgery. We display...

  7. TWO BODY COMMODITIES The Medical Value of the Human Body and Its Parts
    (pp. 47-76)

    “A commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing,” wrote Karl Marx in Capital, volume 1 (Marx 1967:163). Within the United States, one regularly encounters a propensity to commodify things in peculiar ways, and this is particularly true of the human body and its parts. By 1992, the marketability of the human body had become so pronounced in this country that it prompted Jim Hogshire to author a guide on how to “sell yourself to science” (Hogshire 1992). Viable options included participating as a research subject...

  8. THREE HUMAN, MONKEY, MACHINE The Brave New World of Human Hybridity
    (pp. 77-106)

    In October 1984, Loma Linda University Medical Center in California made a startling public announcement: surgeon Leonard Bailey had removed the flawed heart of a four-day-old baby girl and replaced it with one from a female baboon drawn from Bailey’s research colony. The infant—dubbed Baby Fae—reportedly fared well at first, but she soon succumbed to an onslaught of clinical complications associated with acute graft rejection. This form of organ transfer, involving a xenograft, attracted immediate and widespread media and medical attention, and responses ranged from amazement to anger, horror, and disgust. Although Bailey’s research is now heralded in...

  9. EPILOGUE The Future of the Body Transformed
    (pp. 107-112)

    Any anthropologist who wishes to track emergent practices along the cutting edge of transplant research faces a Sisyphean task. American biomedicine is, after all, driven in large part by a tireless desire to perfect its craft, and this is particularly pronounced where forms of surgical body repair are concerned. Trying to write of new findings is thus quite difficult, because, frankly, stasis is uncharacteristic of organ transfer in this country. The formal program of any professional conference confirms the vibrancy of a field marked by an exacting urge among specialists to tinker with and, thus, further develop their techniques. We...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 113-116)
    (pp. 117-124)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 125-130)