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New Organs Within Us: Transplants and the Moral Economy [Hardcover]

Aslihan Sanal , Aslhan Sanal , Aslı Han Sanal

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Book Description

June 10 2011 Experimental Futures
New Organs Within Us is a richly detailed and conceptually innovative ethnographic analysis of organ transplantation in Turkey. Drawing on the moving stories of kidney-transplant patients and physicians in Istanbul, Aslihan Sanal examines how "imported" biotechnologies are made meaningful and acceptable not only to patients and doctors, but also to the patients' families and Turkish society more broadly. She argues that the psychological theory of object relations and the Turkish concept of benimseme, the process of accepting something foreign by making it one's own, help to explain both the rituals that physicians perform to make organ transplantation viable in Turkey and the psychic transformations experienced by patients who suffer renal failure and undergo dialysis and organ transplantation. Soon after beginning dialysis, patients are told that transplantable kidneys are in short supply; they should look for an organ donor. Poorer patients add their names to the state-run organ share lists. Wealthier patients pay for organs and surgeries, often in foreign countries such as India, Russia, or Iraq. Sanal links Turkey's expanding trade in illegal organs to patients' desires to be free from dialysis machines, physicians' qualms about declaring brain-death, and media-hyped rumours of a criminal organ mafia, as well as to the country's political instability, the privatization of its hospitals, and its position as a hub in the global market for organs.

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Review

"New Organs Within Us is a tour de force. A brave, nuanced, and caring journey into the lives of transplant patients and the new worlds of meaning they tentatively inhabit. Soulfully written, the book changes the way we think about inner life and well-being, technology and human agency, and the impact of the global biomedical enterprise on local health systems. Social scientists and medical practitioners will have to reckon with this exceptional analysis for years to come." Joao Biehl, author of the award-winning books Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment and Will to Live: AIDS Therapies and the Politics of Survival "I learned a great deal from this brilliant book. There is nothing else like it in the ethnographic literature on comparative high-tech medicine. Aslihan Sanal reaches far beyond the story of transplant patients and the organ trade in Turkey, taking in global flows of knowledge and ethics around brain death, organ donation, and standards of care, and the worldwide organ trade, in which organs are exchanged legally and on the black market." Mary-Jo DelVecchio Good, Professor of Social Medicine, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School "The ethical aspects of transplantation have long attracted non-clinical writers. Too often, their work seems a case of supply rather than demand - as does Aslihan Sanal's New Organs Within Us, which opens with an imaginary first-person account of disease, dialysis and transplant from the perspective of a young woman, Zehra. "In the invention of technoscientific imaginaries such as Zehra's, biological knowledge takes over the authority of the intuitive and the desirable, chaining the person to a former lifeworld, from which she can hardly escape. As the binary oppositions inherent in the dream-versus nature-states vanish, comprehension in takes over by an altogether new sense that literally perceives social life as one's own body."." - Druin Burch, Times Literary Supplement, August 10th 2012

About the Author

Aslihan Sanal is a cultural anthropologist who focuses on science and medical technology. She received her PhD from MIT in 2005, and is currently working as an independent scholar. This is her first book.

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