Books

Descombes’ The Institutions of Meaning

The Institutions of Meaning: A Defense of Anthropological Holism

by Vincent Descombes

translated by Stephen Adam Schwartz. Harvard University Press, 2014. 392 pp.

 

How is what is “in” our minds, as thought, also something that we share, communicate, and can understand? This question, however posed, must be fundamental for any anthropological approach to mental life. In the course of …

Features

Pesticides and global health: ‘ambivalent objects’ in anthropological perspective

Pesticides: can’t live with them, can’t live without them

In Sri Lanka, producers of the illicit liquor kasippu sometimes suspend a bottle of pesticide above the vat during the fermentation process. It is believed the kasippu will absorb the potency of the pesticide and add to its strength, increasing drinkers’ intoxication and pleasure. But there is also a danger the …

Features

How the Face Became an Organ

On July 3 of this year, the face became an “organ”. Changes to US Federal health policy came into effect, moving face transplantation into the jurisdiction of medical procedures governed and administrated by the agencies that oversee the US national transplant system – the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network (OPTN) and the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). This policy …

Features

Remaking Local Biologies in an Epigenetic Time

Premise and Summary

This is a very provisional text,[1] part of a broader book-length research (forthcoming from Palgrave in 2015) on ‘political epistemology’, a construct I use to investigate the coproduction of epistemological facts and socio-political values in the history of the life-sciences (e.g.: how certain views of heredity, development, nature/nurture potentially favor certain political values and …

Web Roundups

Web Roundup: Organ Transfer in Open Spaces

July’s web roundup will focus on recent conversations around organ transfer and its public perception.  Organ transfer, with its complex and oftentimes invisible circuits of body parts, donors, recipients, doctors, markets and the state, is particularly ripe for intervention by social scientists. Ethan Watters’ profile of anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes at Pacific Standard says that her work on organ transfer was, …