New Organs Within Us

Transplants and the Moral Economy

New Organs Within Us

Experimental Futures

More about this series

Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: 11 photographs Published: July 2011

Author: Aslihan Sanal

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Medicine and Health > Public Health and Health Policy, Science and Technology Studies

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 rumors 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.


“Without a doubt, New Organs Within Us is a significant contribution to the empirical studies exploring the global organ trade, as well as a compelling narrative that draws in the reader from the very first page.… New Organs Within Us is a unique and valuable account of the Turkish “biopolis,” an important contribution to the literature that explores the local meanings of organ donation, and a useful reference book for students who have an interest in science and technology studies which explore nature and culture. It is Sanal’s beautiful storytelling, however, that makes this book very appealing even to those who are not familiar with the existing literature or who would not usually be interested in this topic.” — Ilke Turkmendag, Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics

“New Organs within Us: Transplants and the Moral Economy is a richly ethnographic and soulfully written book that plunges its audience into the world of transplant patients and physicians…. The book is an important contribution to the burgeoning field of organ transplant.” — Monir Moniruzzaman, American Ethnologist

New Organs within Us is an important contribution to the ?elds of science and technology studies and the anthropology of health and illness.” — Aysecan Terzioglu, American Anthropologist

“This is a brilliant book about organ transplantation in Turkey, not only as a journey into the experiences of patients, donors, and relatives of the decease, but also as a political-economy engagement that sheds light on how coping mechanisms are segregated between the poor and the rich. I learned a great deal from this book, and would like to recommend it to students of social sciences, social medicine, and political economy in Turkey.”  — Fikret Adaman, Turkish Studies

"Sensitively written and deeply insightful, Aslihan Sanal’s ethnography of kidney transplantation in Turkey in the 1990s and 2000s is an intimate stitching of life histories, national and institutional narratives, and shifting meanings of life, death, and the body." — Elizabeth DeLuca, Somatosphere

"Her rendition of the hard work of surgeons and anatomists in devising terms such as ‘transitional public service’ (p. 135) in order to encourage families to donate to research labs the bodies of their long-abandoned kin is truly absorbing."  — Marie-Andree Jacob, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

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.” — João Biehl, author of Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment

“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, as well as the worldwide organ trade, in which organs are exchanged legally and on the black market.” — Mary-Jo DelVecchio Good, Professor of Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

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.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Prologue. The Accurate Nature of Things xi

Introduction. What Makes the World Our Own 1

The Book 6

In the Field 7

Part One. The Desirable 15

Half a Human 15

From the Earth, Through the Quake 21

Against the Tide 26

Traveling to the West and the East 30

Within the Experiment 36

Close to Death 41

Internal Objects 44

Words of Life 46

The Biopolis 50

East of "Reason," West of "Eternal Life" 54

Regulating Human Affairs, Fears, Emotions 63

The Economy of Human Flesh and Bones 85

The Biopolis's Vocations 95

Twice Inert, Lifeless, and Life-less 108

Part Two. The Impossible 111

Spaces of Death 111

The Pool of the Dead 118

Mehmed 122

Insanity 128

Kadavra 130

Beyond the Mirror 134

Dissection and Disenchantment 140

Burial 143

Rites of Diffusion 146

Reburial 150

Suicide 153

Dying Metaphors 160

Sacrifice 165

The Possible 175

Conclusion. New Life 179

Epistemic Passages 180

Benimseme 191

Acknowledgments 197

Notes 201

Bibliography 221

Index 233
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4912-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4889-4
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