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Faculty Research Lecture, April 23, to address traffic in human organs

16 April 2003



Nancy Scheper-Hughes

In the second 2003 Faculty Research Lecture, Professor of Medical Anthropology Nancy Scheper-Hughes will speak Wednesday, April 23, on “Beyond Bioethics: Global Justice and the Traffic in Human Organs.” The talk is at 5 p.m. in Wheeler Auditorium.

As an active fieldworker and outspoken public intellectual, Scheper-Hughes’ life work concerns the violence of everyday life from an existentialist and politically engaged perspective. She is best known for her award-winning books on schizophrenia among bachelor farmers in County Kerry (Saints, Scholars and Schizophrenics: Mental Illness in Rural Ireland) and on hunger, maternal thinking, and infant mortality in Brazil (Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil), both published by the University of California Press.

During the early 1980s Scheper-Hughes undertook an ethnographic study on the deinstitutionalization of the severely mentally ill in South Boston and on the homeless mentally ill in Berkeley. In 1994-95 she moved to South Africa to teach and to begin an ongoing ethnographic study of the role of violence in the transition to democracy there.

She has also done research and written on a wide variety of subjects — among them AIDS and human rights in Cuba, death squads and the extermination of street kids in Brazil, clerical celibacy and child sex abuse, and the repatriation of Ishi’s brain to the Pit River Indians of Northern California. Her essays on the anthropology of the mindful body, peace-time crimes and the “genocide continuum,” and the primacy of the ethical in fieldwork relations are considered classics in her field.

Recently her focus has been on the global traffic in human organs and living unrelated organ donors as a form of political violence, of what she calls “small wars and invisible genocides.” In the process, she has developed a so-called “militant” anthropology, which has been broadly applied to medicine, psychiatry, and the practice of anthropology.

Scheper-Hughes directs the campus’s graduate program in Critical Studies in Medicine, Science, and the Body, and is co-founder and director of Organs Watch, a medical-human-rights project. Her next book, The Ends of the Body: The Global Traffic in Organs, is being published in 2003 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Next week’s Faculty Research Lecture is based on this work.