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Title: Encumbered Ontology: An Intimate Foray into the Sociality of Human Organs
Other Titles: SOCIAL TRENDS Peer-reviewed National Journal of the Department of Sociology of North Bengal University, Vol.10, 31st March 2023, pp 17-33
Authors: Roy, Pinaki
Keywords: Social life,
Human body
Human organs
Kidney failure
Issue Date: 31-Mar-2023
Publisher: University of North Bengal
Abstract: Appadurai’s (1986) “social life of things” approach helps conceptualize human organs as not merely biological but deeply embedded in complex social relationships, and implicated in the associated hierarchies within which they acquire significance. Disputes in the interpersonal realm in immediate, everyday contexts of ailment, disease and its management foregrounds the encumbered ontology of bodies and organs – their entanglement in relational disputes articulated in and through the ailing body and failing organ. Drawing on unanticipated moments in the life-trajectory of the researcher – an essentially unconventional source of data in now canonized practices of sociological and anthropological research, this paper demonstrates that people who are ill or afflicted with some disease which requires personalized care and group attention, physical involvement and financial expenses, often become objects of dispute over issues of care, support and responsibility. Such discourses reaffirm the social – the responsibility of the family and friends or the wider kin group towards the ill, as much as they are discourses of contention over issues like who is ideally responsible for taking care of the ill and dependent? How the responsibility is to be shared or distributed within the family or amongst immediate kin members? And if the responsibility is not to be divided equally, what are the plausible grounds for waiving or discounting one over another? Engagement with unanticipated yet immediate situations of kidney failure and its familial management reveals that such disputes need not always seamlessly centre on the question of ownership of property of the ailing beyond death, but around the failing or afflicted organ itself, in that it serves as the material-symbolic locus of disputes which frames the human organ as encumbered property.
ISSN: 2348-6538
Appears in Collections:Vol.10 (March 2023)

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