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The Anthropology of the Beginnings and Ends of Life Author(s): Sharon R. Kaufman and Lynn M.

Morgan Source: Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 34 (2005), pp. 317-341 Published by: Annual Reviews Stable URL: . Accessed: 31/03/2011 13:33
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of the Anthropology and Ends of Life Beginnings

Sharon R. Kaufman1 and Lynn M. Morgan2
of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine, University of California department San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94143-0646; email: 2 Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts 01075-1426; email:

Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2005.34:317^1 The Annual Review of Anthropology is online at doi: 10.1146/ annurev.anthro.34.081804.120452 2005 by Copyright Annual Reviews. All rights reserved 0084-6570/05/1021 0317$20.00

Key Words Medical anthropology, biopolitics, personhood, birth, death social studies of science,

This essay reviews recent anthropological attention to the "be

ginnings" and "endings" of life. A large literature since the 1990s

highlights thropological naturalization this tion essay the analytic attention of outlines trends to the and innovations that characterize of persons, Part an the I of cultural production of new Ufe

life, and

the emergence


the coming-into-being, and how life and death include how

of personhood Dominant

and attenua completion are attributed, contested, connections are forged

and enacted.


or severed between the living and the dead and the socio-politics of dead, dying, and decaying bodies. The culture of medicine is ex amined for its role in organizing and naming life and death. Part II is organized by the turn to biopolitical analyses stimulated by the
work and living bryo, of Foucault. biotechnologies, and dying and It encompasses along new forms dead, with the ways state of and life in which the biosciences forms cell, of em of govern practices, such as the stem


and brain

it emphasizes

the production

value. Much of this scholarship is informed by concepts of Hminality (a period and state of being between social statuses) and subjectifi catdon (inwhich notions of self, citizenship, life and itsmanagement are linked to the production of knowledge and political forms of


Contents INTRODUCTION. Problematizing "Beginnings" and"Endings". PART I. MAKING THE PERSON, 318 320

ginnings as ing scholars




life the

been past

as fifteen

stimulat years,

it is now. have





with how the boundaries of life and death are

asserted tity and and with negotiated, that such boundaries redefine. the ends In this sense, of the the the iden construct, the lit

categories and on and


DEAD . 320 320 Producing Persons. The Dead Make the Living:
Attachment, Disengagement,

protect, erature nings

anthropology of life echoes

begin an recent epistemic

thropological boundaries,


interrogation as those

of other between and

disciplines, territories.

and Rituals ofMourning. Dead, Dying, and Decaying Bodies The Culture ofMedicine Organizes the End of Life. When Death Comes at the Beginning of Life.

323 325 326 327 327


of knowledge,


The beginnings
matically ied ways ble linked,

and the ends of life are the

then, by attention constitute their social the to the var and disassem worlds. consistencies anthropo In trademark to and attend the cre of in and

that humans and

themselves This review

considers that


Emergent Cultural Forms at the

and logical

innovations attention

characterize topics. continue of culture lived

to these


... Beginnings and Ends of Life Value. Making Between Life and Death, Beginnings, and Endings. CONCLUSION. BEGINNINGS, ENDINGS, AND THE ETHNOGRAPHIC.

329 330 332

anthropologists to the work (reflexively) ation of meaning: the dividual attenuation tion and actors, the

experience ascription and the


of personhood, reproduction worlds. their and Yet

of material


produc cos have sci



also entific paying

extended practice particular

anthropologists to encompass reach

knowledge to attention

production, the increasing

biologization of political and private life.The


A desperately poor young mother dies of

toward effects


the studying of bioscience,

production bio-citizenship,


and the biosocial

in anthropological


a major


AIDS. Haifa world away, a child is born as the result of a $50,000 in-vitro fertilization pro
cedure. plores high-tech als and review allow istence, on socially By such juxtaposing discordant births innovative speaks humans and and the events deaths, dical literature that ex and ritu this that of ex low-tech traditional practices conditions and out

of begin

nings and endings, stimulating new thinking

about edge, life. social cultural production, facts, and authoritative the representations knowl of


ginnings and ends

investigations of the be
of life have undergone a

to the dissimilar to the come range of into


shift from

the early days of ethnog

of normative prac


reflection and borders. the margins and social never the be


significant have for

thresholds often used

tices surrounding birth and death within dis

crete societies to recent studies of the cultural

Anthropologists of life as a site

examining and and

the making relationships, life itself. Yet

production of forms of life and death, includ

and ing the ambiguous to an interest concerning boundaries in the when between socio-political and them, de ends.

of persons unmaking and corporeal bodies, has the anthropological




life begins




Late tury

nineteenth studies were

through conducted

mid-twentieth within

cen the frame

own death, and theways inwhich death is spo

ken, silenced, embraced, staved off, and oth

works of the anthropology and sociology of religion, ritual, the family, the sacred and
secular, frameworks graphies and structural-functionalism. remain where they salient are in recent often Those ethno

erwise patterned (see Seale 1998 for review). Themes of identity, liminality and mem
ory are central to this work. processes constituted through are Beginnings of social recog


through the lenses of globalization, postcolo nialism, and bioscience. The rise of feminism from the 1970s contributed to a range of stud ies of childbirth and postpartum practices that focused on cultural variability in the making of birth (although it did not equally inspire studies of care for the dying). Late twentieth
century and early twenty-first century stud

(James 2000), and are contingent on the attribution of personhood and sociality. Endings depend on the culturally acknowl nition edged transformation of a living person to
something ancestor, else etc. Both a corpse, are nonperson, spirit, character frequendy

ized by a time of provisionality,

nacy, and contestation as social reordered. The denials politics surrounding of personhood have

relations are

ies have responded both to the impacts of the

genetic sciences and clinical medicine on in

assertions received a

and great

dividual experience (especially reproductive technologies and technologies surrounding dying) and to the shifting politics, ethics, and discourses about the beginnings and endings of life itself that accompany developments in the biological sciences and biomedicine. These writings have been influenced, too, by the explosion of work in the social studies of
science, medicine, technology, and the body.

deal of attention in the last two decades, as

have the ways in which tensions between tra

dition and modernity

ual, to community, assisted and reproduction, euthanasia,

are enacted in individ

institutional genetic assisted responses screening, pallia



tive and life- or death-prolonging

treatments, other rights and death. discourses Human, support

and no

women's, shifting

Our essay is divided into two broad parts

to reflect tive social what we between see as a potentially that produc foreground representa tension studies and

tions of personhood and offer rich terrain for negotiation about beginnings and endings. Part II oudines the turn to biopolitical
analyses which has been shaped are largely by



tion and those that analyze the biopolitics of making and allowing life and death. These
two approaches but of are not entirely mutually trends ex clusive, studies represent culture with and general cultural between Part and at

clinical stood, tural making stresses discursive medicine and forms are how

in the biom dical sciences and

as they The deployed, under of of cul delineation sources this practice,

enacted. and

structural to


central scientific

approach, together shapes

subject which with under

I is concerned



tenuation of personhood
death ically are attributed, enacted in social

and how

life and



contested, contexts.

and pragmat

standings of the parameters of life, death, and

the person needs. ies of Under science, and creates the this particular rubric of the approach desires social and stud studies

of persons through reproduction and birth is closely tied to the production of mothers, fa thers, viable children, and families (Ginsburg & Rapp 1995). At the end of life, ethnog raphers have focused their attention on the distinction between the social and biological death of the person and the practical and ethi
cal quandaries ity and desire created by the late modern to authorize and design abil one's


of life enabled by the laboratory and clinic and ended through medical technique. It ex plores the creation and cessation of life as de bated and decided in changing regimes of au thority. Biopolitical analyses also explore how poverty, body commodification, and notions of risk and control are lived and shaped by the The Beginnings and Ends ofLife 319

intersections tions, and



imperatives, reach



d'Ivoire garded From biopolitics, at these sage as

(2004), newly the

who born.

are not



the global

of biomedicine.

At both the beginnings

scholars have turned their

and ends of life,

attention to expert


perspective are other complexities. less important

of ways

Foucauldian of Rites than looking of pas the way

and lay knowledge production and their influ

ence on changing future, and notions of the self, about the fam dying, ily, the expectations

temporal per se are

that life forms are redefined

research young, is a case pluripotent in point. human The

death and longevity. Social science fascination with new life forms created through bureau
cratic, stem commercial, cells, and technical means the comatose, the fetuses, embryos, and the brain-dead has directed effort toward the indus

ongoing social changes. Embryonic


in relation to stem cell

transfer to old, of in

firm human bodies disrupts linear life-cycle

narratives tingency of and person, by any demonstrating relationship "the perfect between nature con embryo of the

demented, much


trialized and affluent sectors of world societies

where alive what or dead it means are being to be human reformulated. and to be

the nonteleological

embryo's developmental pathways" (Waldby & Squier 2003, p. 33; emphasis in original). Anthropologists have broadened the defini tion of "reproductive technologies" to include
the subject-making powers held by states, cor

Problematizing and "Endings"

The broad topics along with

of reincarnation the particular and res

porations, and global intellectual enterprises (Franklin 2004, Ong & Collier 2004). They
have also shown how technoscientific devel



of exhumation and reburial, pose a challenge

to our discrete, terms beginning Eurocentric and end, and to the linear, trajectory do not these

opments have destabilized

teleological, and evolutionary

the genealogical,
grand theories

terms imply. Anthropologists

umented social practices that

have long doc

rely on

through which life has often been compre hended (Franklin & Lock 2003, Goodman
et al. 2003). Such research are demonstrates contingent are neither local that con stable beginnings the meanings cepts, nor self-evident. and ends

the ideological assumption that human life begins with birth and ends with death. The continuity of life is evident in Obeyesekere's (2002) ambitious comparison of "rebirth es
chatologies" among Amerindians, Buddhists,

of which

and Greeks; in Desjarlais's ethnography of how "dying is not quite dying" in Nepal (2003); and in Papagaroufali's examination of the prolonged, liminal process of dying in Greece (1999). Anthropologists have dis
cussed tains the to cyclical reincarnated character infants of life as it per and children


Producing project. The

persons is an inherently analytic social role is


to illuminate the elements and scale of this

project and to articulate the range of knowl


because they are "inhabited by their (adult) thoughts and gestures," writes Gupta (2002, p. 1), "clearly have to be conceptualized asmore complex beings than is allowed by the standard narrative of child-hood which posits a new being who slowly finds his or her way in
the world." In a similar vein, Gotdieb and newborns docu ac te

edge about "what human life is, how it comes

into being and is sustained, and what hap

pens to it at death" (Strathern & Stewart 1998, p. 236). At the beginnings of life, anthropol ogists have shown that social reproduction is effected through the cultural production of
persons they (Carrithers argue, et al. 1985). Personhood, attenuated, is a process conferred,

ments corded

the spiritual reincarnated

knowledge Beng

respect in C




contested, and withheld by the collective. It does not reside in the physical or cognitive attributes of individuals. Anthropologists fol lowing these prescriptions have documented a
variety of beliefs about conception, metaphors of procreation, and processes newborns contexts and personhood but of coming-into are considered to be not unripe, un

to reside

in the





in the social body (Casper 1998, Scheper 1992). Some anthropologists have Hughes
championed not only the social construction

but also the subjectivity of infants, arguing for their spirituality, psychological integrity,
and these role newly as social formed agents. persons They may suggest govern that their

That social-being. in many cultural formed, is evidence nate or natural ungendered, that

fully is not

human an attribute in

own mortality, "usually decid [ing] to remain in this world as long as fife seems hospitable" (Gottlieb 2004, p. 264).
Abortion. with the The status North of American fetuses, obsession and the


a cultural

1991, (Bloch 1993, Carsten 1995, Delaney Lambek & Strathern 1998, Loizos & Heady 1999). As Hartouni observed, "Who or what
is called person is, among other things, a


highly contingent historical formation; it is both the site and the source of ongoing cul
tural as contests and a self-evident always fact of under nature" construction (Hartouni

origin of life has been scrutinized by an thropologists who have shown that abortion is only sometimes about when life begins (Morgan & Michaels 1999). Efforts to see be yond the polarizing politics of life and per sonhood include Ginsburg's (1989) ground breaking ethnography of abortion activists in
Fargo, porters hostile women North Dakota, which are not because The grant argued that sup and opponents to one another as nurturers. or on fundamentally both sides value to an may relations, be

1999, p. 300).
In part gized that reign and as a reaction discourses against the biolo a-social of personhood have anthropologists

in the west,

documented the ways in which personhood is initiated and effected through the social
exchange of body substances and the provi

willingness personhood as kin

thropomorphize contingent

sion of feeding, nurturing, and care (Astuti 1993, Carsten 1995, Conklin 2001, Conklin & Morgan 1996, Lambek & Strathern 1998, Sobo 1993). Strathern (1988) inspired a gen
eration sons or are of scholars "partible" when she argued that per rather than autonomous other words, they "social produce"



physical health and vitality, parenting expecta

tions, being logical economic considerations, spiritual that have litde to do with the status of fetuses or infants. well onto


self-contained; reveal the




or denying personhood may justify abortion, infanticide, or infant neglect (Sargent 1989, Scheper-Hughes 1992).Morgan (1998) shows
the status of the unborn to be ambiguous and

(Konrad 1998, p. 645). Personhood is ascribed during social birth rituals, of which biological birth may be only one feature (Morgan 2002 [1989]). The no tion of social birth is useful because it high
lights the gradual, malleable, and contested

unknowable in highland Ecuador, where some

women because not consider abortion it is "murder" will but because into one's objectionable one own not should

take God's Recent

hands. of



ten ascribed.

through which
But concept

points that offers and

is of
out, in

as Gammeltoft

abortion have to be understood in the context of the political threats to legalized abortion in
the U.S. elsewhere. and access By to safe, affordable women's abortion agency emphasizing

it is a normative sight into

little subjec



tive feelings regarding the social and moral status of fetuses and infants" (2002, p. 320). The concept of social birth obscures situations inwhich the agency for personhood is thought

and pragmatism
constraints, some

in negotiating

have re

jected the "fetal imperative" and provided

a critical counterbalance to epidemiological

The Beginnings and Ends ofLife


studies nore ume abortion


rights-based voices.

discourses Contributors

women's about note

that ig to a vol on may








thropology can benefit from viewing repro

duction the ways itself as a key people site for understanding reconceptualize and in which

cross-cultural that morality

perspectives and ethics

be less critical determinants of abortion deci

sions than the "social and economic realities

reorganize the world inwhich they live" (Van Hollen 2003, p. 5; emphasis in original).
Attention emerges mothers from are to the the production feminist (rather of mothers conviction than objects) that of so

of daily life" (Rylko-Bauer 1996, p. 480; see also Koster 2003, Nations et al. 1997, Oaks
2003). Meanwhile, other anthropologists ar


gue that religious ideologies, ritual practices,

and moral reasoning about abortion continue

cial reproduction. Davis-Floyd ines the production of mothers,

(2004) exam showing how

to merit
tuses tion

ethnographic attention (Delaney Gammeltoft 2002). The focus on fe 1991,

diverts attention threaten from women's poor women the fact lives that abor in a variety are jeopar

technocratic birthing practices and the gen dered division of body/labor function as in struments of gender hegemony. Paxson (2004)
argues view that nature the urban Greeks through she studied the gen as actualized

politics of ways: In Egypt,

dized while "wealthy women can literally buy safety" (Lane et al. 1998, p. 1089). Through
out much nation" of Asia, has led to "prenatal gender the sex-selective discrimi abortion

dered social action inherent in becoming a mother. Pointing to the difficulties of par enting disabled and potentially disabled chil dren, Landsman (1998) argues thatmothers of disabled children redefine personhood.
tile women, mothers, full those sometimes who are unable suffer the attenuation

of "several million

female fetuses" (Miller 2001, p. 1083). With these examples, criti calmedical anthropologists demonstrate that
reproduction ation, construed (as procre narrowly or childbirth) atten diverts abortion,


to become


as demonstrated literature on

in a bur infertil



tion from reproduction

as the power dies. to determine

broadly considered
who lives and who

ity (Becker 2000, Inhorn 1994, Inhorn & van Balen 2002, Kahn 2000, Taylor et al. 2004). The latest scholarship views childbirth
(and other reproductive practices) namic unstable) (and dynamically with local forms as the dy interaction of meaning

personhood lowing a spurt


is one site at which

Fol and enacted. negotiated case of ethnographic studies

of modernity

making. Much

of this work uses the lenses

of childbirth
turned their

in the 1980s, anthropologists

attention to the organization,

to fo of postcoloniality and poststructuralism cus on what of biom d when aspects happens


and variability
cultures (Browner

of birth practices
& Sargent 1996,

ical childbirth are worked into local forms (Ram & Jolly 1998). Dichotomies (for ex
ample between western/nonwestern, nature/culture) are tradi increas tional/modern,

Davis-Floyd & Sargent 1997). Van Hollen (1994) describes a historical transformation in anthropological theories of childbirth "from
function to authority" use which parallels, in some

ingly dismantled by anthropologists who see

the selective and pragmatic adaptation of

respects, the shift from personhood to biopol

itics that we in this review. Her ethnog

well to as the

2003, Obermeyer
by "subversive

and adoption practices (Erikson 2000, Yngvesson 2002), as

scholars who draw our of new attention repro potential"

raphy about the contradictory relationship between modernity and childbirth in Tamil Nadu, India, states this shift clearly: "Whereas
earlier duction anthropological to tended focus approaches on how to repro reproduc

ductive technologies (Dumit & Davis-Floyd 1998, p. 7) and the "uneven meanings of bioscience in a multicultural world" (Rapp 1998).

tive practices and beliefs reflected social and

%22 Kaufman Morgan

In the 1980s anthropological

about reproductive rights began to in reaction and Thatcher-era Reagan-

shape cul

both the staged constitution

and the rupture and healing

of death itself,
of relationships

to take

among the living and between the living and

the dead.

tural politics. In the 1990s, questions of per

sonhood were incorporated into broader stud

Linking these studies is the problem of at

tachment which riality, dead and the culturally the bereaved and person. in some Conklin's traces in ways patterned from the mate disengage cases, the memory, of the

ies of kinship, gender,

role of state power in citizens. Consequently,

the body, and the

defining attention persons and to person

hood was linked to biopolitics, especially tech nologies of procreation (Edwards et al. 1999, Franklin 1997, Konrad 2004, Thompson 2005), kinship and relatedness (Franklin & McKinnon 2001, Strathern 1992), the con struction of particular kinds of mothers and fathers (Krause 2005), and "stratified re
production" in the context of state power


of "compassion Wari'

ate cannibalism"

the Amazonian

to show how

of body, memory,
eradicating a corpse

and spirits
by eating

it helped "loosen ties that bind the living and the dead too tighdy" (2001, p. xxi) and trans
formed and managed connections between

and postsocialist transformation (Rivkin-Fish 2005).

the spirit of the dead and those who live on (2001, p. 158).The dead are shown to be ac tive, holding power over the living, who re main passive, in Shepard's (2002) account of theMatsigenka of southeast Peru. The oblit eration of the dead person as an individual is taken up in Taylor's (1993) study of the
Jivaro-Achuar of Amazonia and inWilliams'


Dead Make

Attachment, and Rituals


the Living: Disengagement, of Mourning

points to vital connec


(2003) portrayal
of central France. spect for the dead


the Manus
notes speaking never

that re about

tions between the living and dead. The dispo sition and memorialization of the dead pro foundly inform the social identity of the living.
Death and bereavement rituals have been


them, destroying their property, and insuring

the disappearance of anything that may re

the subject of investigation from the earliest

days of anthropology. the soul, continue and Relationships the ritual among the corpse, mourners of practices as the focal point

mind the living of the deceased. This form of forgetting assures the incorruptibiUty of Manus identity and culture in the midst of "gadzo" (nongypsy) society. Heilman's (2001, p. 120) thick description of Jewish mourning
practices stresses the year-long ritual process

to serve

for cultural analyses, long after Hertz (1960 [1907]) set the standard for anthropological
considerations death. Hertz of showed the social that death ramifications does not coin of

through which the bond with a living person

becomes a new amemory identity as well and the mourner develops to as a new relationship

cide with the destruction of an individual's life, that death is a social event and the beginning of a ceremonial process bywhich the dead per
son becomes initiation ber of into recent an ancestor, an afterlife, studies extend and that death is an a rebirth. Hertz's A num insights,

the deceased. Battaglia's (1990, pp. 155-94)

ethnography of cultural responses to mortal

analyzing the mutable relationships between the dead and the living, the transformation of the identity of the bereaved, the role of mem ory and forgetting
the dead,

ity explores theways inwhich the personhood of the dead and the survivors is performed and experienced in rituals of commemoration in Melanesian Sabarl society, so that the indi vidual is symbolically "finished" and a "future for the dead" is fabricated by the mourners
as a multiply-authored memory. Unlike the

in constituting death and

of the material

the transformations

dead Wari',
tion, or


disappear through inges

who are never evoked

ity of the corpse and the soul/spirit thatmark

the Manus,

The Beginnings and Ends ofLife



mentioned who


death, to

or grieve

the for

dead the has

Anthropological work on the topic of death

been by about punctuated occasional a tri-part during moment the past two decades sion self-conscious in discus ethnogra



living, the dead Sabarl are symbolically and visibly reconstituted in the assembling of fu neral foods and objects of wealth. Burial practices connect the dead and the
living as well. A cross-cultural and the life study of mem ory making, of the dead ethnicity, into incorporation in six cemeter

phy: first, the ways in which personal loss in the face of death contributes to the making of ethnography; second, how ethnographic fieldwork and writing shape personal engage
ments third, the mants' with how subject, lives, death, writing alters one's grief, and mourning; when death to infor and the and is culture, one's own


ies in London (Francis et al. 2005) illustrates how the social existence of the deceased is
maintained at the graveside and beyond. The

relationship experience,

authors talked with and observed more

1000 cemetery visitors at the graveside

to re

entire ethnographic endeavor. Rosaldo (1984)

broke his on conceptual essay, the "Grief ground and force connection the of on these topics with rage: a medi his wife's headhunter's emotions," between

veal how the dead are kept alive through plant ing gardens, tending graves, and speaking to
the deceased. Migrants to London are choos

cultural on the


ing to bury their kin in their new country

of residence, thus establishing rather than repatriate home and the dead, situational a new

untimely death and his understanding of Ilon

got cultural practices and theoretical explica

identity for the deceased as well

descendants. home to die In contrast, or to be buried the desire emerges

as for the
to return as a ma

tion. More recently, Briggs (2004), Gewertz & Errington (2002), and Van Hollen (2003,
pp. 215-20) note death expected in which the ways the un a sense of in of a child erases

jor preoccupation for elderly Cambodian and Filipino immigrants and refugees to the U.S. in Becker's (2002) study of transnationality and death. Panourgia (1995) describes the
grave her as home analysis and cemetery death. as homeland The anticipa in of Greek

vulnerability and shifts one's positionality

the field, so that visceral, lived connections


are forged with the people one studies, and

analyses tion, are, by of political same personal economy, and social organiza discourse, at the tragic narrative, time, representation and informed cases, is


tion of Greek Orthodox death rituals prompts

some Greek donation and second citizens so that burial, to choose they may which or organ body avoid exhumation some consider an

experience. native between

In those and work

the boundary erased; blurred. In about other the


stranger and

the boundary

life is

abhorrent ritual (Papagaroufali 1999). The anticipation of death and the con
dition of "betweenness" the liminal state

articulate, relationships

deeply-felt among the

musings experi

of being not dead, "not alive," yet "like a

corpse" is explored in Desjarlais's cultural

ence of the ethnographer, death, and field work, Panourgia (1995, p. 30) uses the death
of a loved one as the ground for her ethnog

biography of two elderly Yolmo Buddhists as they prepare for death. This is a phe nomenological ethnography of the "dissolu tion of self (Desjarlais 2003, p. 181) prior to
death and a study of the cultural Other emotional particular forms that constitute centered pact of the texts individual dying explore deaths person. the on person im com

raphy of Athenian death, in which she ex plores the "duplicity" of being both subject (of grief, mourning and loss) and analyst (ofAthe
nian tence death where practices), human become and beings parts of the "realm of exis (our the euphemistic conditions


of intersubjectivity that unite them with

anthropologist." Loss of her elderly




(Desjarlais 1992, Panourgia Seremetakis 1991).



father inspired Behar (1996) to describe the vuln rabilit s of the anthropologist in the



face of death and loss. Haunted by his per ceived contribution to the suffering of a dying Matsigenka woman, Shepard (2002) wrote about her final days in order to explicate, for
himself as much as for others, the ways in

tinated bodies that do not decay are discussed Walter by Csordas (2000),Waldby (2000), and (2004). Biehl (2005) documents the politics of
"letting ploration ernment, of AIDS, Brazil's die" of and and the "making interplay live" of and and in his ex gov science, the

which the dead make the living and his own

emotional responses both to his intervention

subjectivity extreme poverty,

experience dying in

the The

in the woman's dying and to local ways of

knowing. Driving much of these reflexive, ex


of abandonment."


nities, and

deaths on families, commu

as well as on traditional

perimental ethnographies is the desire to in tegrate the politics and practice of anthropol ogy with the nearness and power of death, and each of these scholars uses the work of
culture how personal and profes explore can be connected to witness, sional necessity a to express human and engagement, deeply to contribute to a different world. to


mourning practices, has been addressed by Farmer (1999), Farmer et al. (1996), Sankar et al. (1998), and Russ (2005), among others.
The politics surrounding the cause of

death and the identification and counting of

the dead are taken up by several scholars,



and Decaying


including Trosde (2005), who examined in ternational differences in design and analysis of death certificates, and Klinenberg (2002), who studied the 1995 Chicago heat wave. Klinenberg discovered how the science of the medical autopsy became the lens through
which were math deaths viewed. "caused Journalists by natural on disaster" the after qual focused


dying, and dead bodies provide the analytic starting point for delineating rela
between persons and the of state, social for facts representations


and for oudining

tics. areas Looking of social closely

a sociology of body poli

at bodies "can open up

of the problem:

the carnavalesque

ity of refrigerating and storing corpses in the

city center rather housing than on its source the deplorable conditions that endanger

not might themselves tions

that social scientists inquiry otherwise and the bodies recognize, can of social condi give evidence to doc that might otherwise be difficult

frail, poor, isolated elderly, themajority of the

victims. tant The quantity public aesthetics, But of the dead was as was impor the need in the narrative,

ument" (Klinenberg 2001, p. 133). Brandes (2001) follows the story of the accidental cre
mation U.S. a crisis of back a a body foreign to his Guatemalan loneliness, worker in the where village, and unresolved

for health, the dead. unconnected

and order remained families

in processing nameless, and neigh

the bodies to specific

of meaning,

grief is provoked by the absence of an in tact corpse. Counts & Counts (2004) de scribe the social disorder among the Kaliai of Papua New Guinea resulting from dis
agreement about the cause and meaning of a

borhoods. Similarly, Scheper-Hughes (1996) compared street children in Brazil and Black township youth in South Africa to show how
both they valued dead. Dead vant or missing to the project bodies are often rele Weiss come to be known yet are as "dangerous" while and they de are are alive, in social depersonalized once representation

death. Cohen (1998) uses the themes of se nility and old age in India and the United
States, and in European social thought to

of nation-building.

ponder ways in which

comes cline nity to be and enacted as reflection the

the decay of the body

and interpreted and the as de commu state, and of family


culture Virtual


(2002) examined the Yemenite Children Af fair, inwhich the remains of adopted Yemeni children were exhumed andDNA tested, fifty years following their deaths, to determine the
"real" lineage of the corpses in a national




and plas

The Beginnings and Ends ofLife






of Yemenite

state of ing truth that

Israel. claims, The

the establishment
ethnic tension, and

of the


cal and nursing staff interactions with patients can families. Who and speak about death to whom, revealed the ways or concealed, in which emotions are about


long-hidden to in attempts

information locate missing

and expectations

the timing
shown to be

and certainty of death all were

socially elaborated and bureau

body parts and identify long-buried remains is

echoed in the story of locating, reburying, and

repatriating the brain and ashes of Ishi, Cali

fornia's most famous Native American and an

cratically determined. Glaser & Strauss (1968) found that dying had a "trajectory," a duration and shape, which was conceptually useful in knowing how the passage from
was Unit dard constituted. and mechanical features in North When the respirator American

anthropological icon (Scheper-Hughes 2001; S tarn 2004). That dead bodies have a life of
their own via their political, symbolic capi

life to death
Care stan became


tal is described
and pean the

in Verdery's

of the exhumation
anonymous corpses, past, which

(1999) account and reburial of famous

Euro to revise sacralize is dis

and West

ern European hospitals (beginning in themid

1970s in the U.S.), collided technologies life-extending, with medicine's "heroic" unclear

Eastern postsocialist are manipulated the present, A similar and

reorient in new




cussed for contemporary Buddhist Thailand inKlima's (2002) account of the complexities
of displaying sponsored corpses political during violence. an era of state

sense of its role in prolonging dying and keep ing the "dead" alive (Kaufman 2000; Lock 2000, 2002;M ller & Koenig 1988). The or ganization of hospital dying in the context of
high-technology medicine was taken up by

ex Mitford's (1998 [1963]) well-known pose of the culture of the funeral industry
as a money-making venture and (especially stands the commer we of from cas as kets, embalming, a classic in the cialization know ness cemeteries)

ethnographers (Anspach 1993, Cassell et al. 2003, Chambliss 1996,Muller 1992, Slomka 1992, Zussman 1992) who worked in Inten
sive Care Units in the U.S. to document the

practice role of hospital

and negotiation

of death, the
and the and ra

description Aside

of medical

of death.

her work,

decision-making structure in organizing

of only one ethnography about the busi of funerals and the emergence of funeral

tionalizing knowledge, ethics, and no end to life. Lavi's (2005) cultural history of euthana
sia in the U.S. documents tradition, the decline of the ars moriendi the replacement of fear




of what in Japan.

the progressive commercialization once were rituals primarily religious

The dearth of cross-cultural studies on the business at the end of fife stands in sharp
contrast to the well-documented surrounding industry the and commercialization begin

at the deathbed by hope and the focus on the relief of pain and suffering to show how legal ization and regulation of techniques of death
became "thinkable."

ning of life (Sharp 2000) and presents an open field for investigation.

After Kubler-Ross (1969) mapped the pa tient's voice to the very end of Ufe, dying
came into its late-modern form as an expe



of Medicine

rience that could be evaluated and inflected with value. The dying patient became wit Organizes
ness to and creator of his or her own identity

the End of Life

Sociologists Glaser & Strauss (1968) and Sudnow (1967) were the first to investigate
how mid-twentieth is organized tural features and century understood dying in the U.S. struc medi through especially

others, nication fied the

1987). For anthropologists

content and patients and structure and doctors


of commu signi

between of




Awareness became

of death,


and disclosure

of the hospital,

topics of research


1999, Field




1996, Good et al. 1993, Gordon & Pad 1997, Taylor 1988), as did the ways in which hope is created, deployed, or rescinded through interaction (Good et al. physician-patient 1990).The modern hospice movement, which
arose in the late 1960s as an alternative death, became to in the stitutionalized, medicalized

genetic ification


that contributed and

to the person as "moral

of fetuses

cast women

pioneers" (Rapp 1999); social responses to pregnancy loss, especially miscarriage (Cecil 1996, Layne 2003); the coercive power of the
state concerned with fetal surveillance to in

organizational vehicle inwhich individual ex perience at the end of life could be expressed (Russ 2005), and it has been analyzed as a site
of healthy dying, moral order, nostalgia, and

tervene in pregnancy (Hartouni 1997); and differential rates of infant mortality by gen der, race, and nationality (Greenhalgh 2003, Miller
against death

2001). Scheper-Hughes
culture-bound and mother claim love that and

(1992) argues
of child the con

interpretations defends poor sometimes

ultimate individualism (Seale 1998, Walter 1994). Yet hospice has also become bureaucra tized (James& Field 1992). (For an ethnogra phy of home death, see Sankar 1999. For re cent studies of nursing home death, see Black & Rubinstein 2005, Kayser-Jones 2002.) As hospital death came to be considered
a socio-medical failure in the U.S., a road

troversial ers


moth has

in a Brazilian


ten the deaths of their own babies by defining

them as too weak or ill to survive. There is

no doubt that baby-killing,

more social

and infant death


threatens the Euro-American generally, order. Yet others have too, shown,

block "to be cleared by modern medicine" (Timmermans 1999, p. 53), ethnographic attention turned to the hospital practices that both stave off and facilitate death (M ller 1992, Zussman 1992). Cassell (2005), Kaufman (2005), Good et al. (2004), and Seymour (2001) explore the disjunction, felt most keenly in the U.S., between the broad quest for "death with dignity" and a nat
ural ical one death, that is, to the a death prolong routinized without dying, use med on of the life on intervention hand, and

socially significant physiological

sometimes used to identify

criteria are


destined to die (Bastian 2001).

That public cumstances into dead embryos and only explanation. that of they dead fetuses emerge cir consciousness requires argue out are in certain

Feminist embryos in any and abso

anthropologists are not fetuses lute biom into cance sense, dical social at nor


advances. existence times



through are they brought and vested with signifi and in particular (some


extending/death-prolonging the other. That disjunction, biom control dical away

technologies, felt wherever

times deterritorialized) places (Morgan 2002). Layne's (2003) ethnography of pregnancy loss
support carriage groups in the U.S. shows how mis is silenced and miscarried embryos

are to wrest techniques thought from families, (and, patients,

sometimes physicians) has led to international interest in the distinction between "good" and "bad" deaths (Johnson et al. 2000, Seale & van der Geest 2004).

rendered socially invisible. Anthropologists have examined the subjectivity and potency attributed to fetal spirits in the Japanese prac tice o mizuko kuyo, performed after abortion (Csordas 1996, Hardacre Picone 1998). 1997, Oaks 1994,




Comes of Life

at the






tion of death at the earliest margins

as a vehicle specific for to the working late twentieth out several century:

of life
the re


haps gence


idea that "life" could be studied (and per

understood) ultimately to the rise of theories owes its emer and of evolution

productive imaging technologies and prenatal

The Beginnings and Ends ofLife


its expansion sciences

to concepts

formed and, more

through recently,

the of

of physiology

sections of states, institutions, and individual experience; shifting conceptions of the nor
mal and procedures the pathological; for governing and strategies the beginnings and and

molecular biology and genetics (Canguilhem 1994, Clarke 1998). Anthropologists seeking
to explore how cultural meanings about the

natural are inscribed in biological materiality

and how technique informs the understanding

ends of life. It has also been used to describe the "biopolitical subjects" that are created when biom dical expertise intersects with
"the cialize social and bureaucratic of the modern practices welfare that so subjects state"

of what life is have been inspired by a num ber of theorists. Arguably themost influential is French historian and philosopher Michel
Foucault, ence mans who endeavored of "truth knowledge to understand games" about by which sci "hu as a series develop


(Ong 1995, p. 1243; see also Biehl 2005, Cohen 2004, Petryna 2002). interested in biopoliti Anthropologists cal approaches to life's beginnings and end ings have

(Foucault 1988, pp. 17-18). He analyzed the

development nealogies institutions, of self-making. first interpreted of of new as power prisons, technologies seen through and ge mental

also drawn from

mentor, Georges

the work



French philosopher
whose as and articulation biom dical

of science and medicine

of the changing of cultural and "normal"


and processes hermeneutics, anthro



for English-speaking

pologists by Dreyfus & Rabinow (1982), sig naled an epistemic shift for anthropologists concerned with the production of life forms.
They have built including that is, on a number the notion the of Foucault's of the "med stance concepts, ical gaze,"

"pathological" have stimulated and informed analyses (see especially Cohen 1998). Femi nist anthropologists and those interested in "how the social shapes the biotechnolog ical" (Franklin & Lock 2003, p. 5) have been inspired by Donna Haraway, the fem
inist theoretician of technoscience who intro


made possible in the eighteenth century, when scientists and physicians paired pathological anatomy (gleaned through dissection and new optical technologies) with their clinical exper
tise to justify a new, empirically-based clin

duced the epistemological concept of "situ ated knowledge" and the notion of "boundary
creatures" such as the cyborg (defined as a

(Haraway 1997). intersections many sions as well

hybrid) into anthropology

to the inspired the ten

ical medicine and biom dical science. The medical gaze created the historical conditions through which life and death could be appre hended (and constituted) as fundamentally bi ological processes. This idea has been taken up by those interested in the shifting forms and impacts of (bio)medicalization and result ing subjectification (Clarke et al. 2003).
Foucault also introduced the concept of

attention Haraway's has of meaning-making who examine anthropologists


and practices, representations as the An of representation. practices

thropologists have also been influenced by the work of French philosopher and anthropolo
gist tion of science of scientific from Bruno facts, society, Latour on the construc separation the modern and

of nature

the displacement

"biopower" to refer to the historical shift that allowed political authorities to wield in fluence through the production of knowl
edge and regulation such of as information life, death, about and vi tal processes health

of the notion of life to the life sciences (Latour 1993, p. 22; Latour &Woolgar 1986). These and other theorists (Agamben 1998, Rose 2001) have brought our attention to the biopolitical subjects that have come to play a dominant role in political discourse in the

(Foucault 1978). Increasingly, politics is tied to the task of managing life;Rose (2001) calls West. Both through and beyond the influence ar of biom dical practices this the "politics of life itself."The concept of per se, it can be are understood today biopolitics has been used to analyze the inter gued that life and death
328 Kaufman Morgan

through their biopolitical definition and ne gotiation. Starting in the 1990s a great deal of ethnography about beginnings and endings
has documented the linkages among instru

tuses (Hartouni
cuss project "fetal subjects" in which

1999). Anthropologists
as the outcome material the animated,

fetus is

of a social

discursively created and politically deployed.

These scholars have been within keenly which aware reproduc of the political contexts

personhood, bureaucratic

consciousness, form.

identity politics,
citizenship, and

tive imaging technologies (especially obstet rical ultrasound) are introduced and inter
preted. They are critical, as well, of how new

Emergent Beginnings

Forms at the Cultural and Ends of Life

Anthropologists have been quick to examine the technoscientific, institutional, religious,

and forms biom at dical processes of the margins that produce stem life. The new cell,

"orphaned" embryo, fetus, fetal specimen (the

dead unborn), sperm and egg donors neomort, all can be and re and seen cipients, "cadaveric" comatose, organ demented, donor

biom dical techniques (such as prenatal ge netic testing and fetal surgery) and forms of surveillance reify fetal subjects (Casper 1998, Haraway 1997, Hartouni 1997, Heriot 1996, 2001, Morgan 1998, Layne 2003, Mitchell 1999, Oaks 2001, Rapp Morgan & Michaels 1999, Taylor 1998). At the same time that the fetus is politically deployed and reified and is analyzed less frequently as person and more often as iconographie biopolitical tool
cultural also subjects near These or at the latter end of life are as emergent. forms are not

as biopolitical subjects, brought into being through the workings of biom dical regimes
of power. Their emergence into social sub

publicly visible or politically charged as the

fetus, tent nor image do they coalesce and multivalent into a singular, po symbol.

jecthood creates new relationships and obli

gations doctors (among and strangers and and kin, between individu patients, between

als and institutions), new forms of knowledge, and new kinds of normalizing practices at the
same time as they foster tensions about politi

cal, ethical, andmedical responsibility. Those

forms bioethics have served and to to spark legitimate the institutional of new creation

The 1968 definition o brain deathmoved, blurred, and troubled the traditional bound ary between life and death, a boundary which had never before been publicly questioned or clinically debated (Giacomini 1997). Lock (2002) describes the differential reaction to the concept of brain death inJapan andNorth America, illustrating how the redefinition of
death was perceived as an affront to the nat

disciplines such as artificial life and marine bioinformatics (Helmreich 2003). Features of physiological development and disruption be
come gue on to intense subject dispute, the basis of competing as people ar legal, moral,

ural and the traditional

Ohnuki-Tierney et al.

in Japan (see also

1994, for China, see

religious, and political claims (Kaufman 2000, 2003; Lock 2002).We limit our discussion to just a few of the emergent life forms that have
recently excited anthropologists' interest.

Ikels 1997). The existence of dead persons kept in life-like conditions of ongoing respi
ration suggested that there was more than one

kind of death or that brain death was not ac

tual, final can death. European and nurses on and North questioned were Ameri whether really

Feminist anthropologists, along with other

colleagues, laborative in a col engaged long-term, to examine the coming enterprise have





into-existence of fetal subjects in Europe and North America. They are interested not in the ontological status of fetuses (a topic well covered by philosophers) but in conditions that produce the social subjectivity of fe

dead. They sometimes noted that donors died twice first from trauma or disease and
then again when respirators were removed.

Rather than specifying and clarifying themo

ment and conditions of death, the notion of

brain death made death more


The Beginnings and Ends of Life





observers, death, transplant

because perhaps


in the ubiquitous discourses of quality of life,

the to know, the right right risk assessment that penetrate sectors of Western to choose, so deeply and and in the sec

became an

almost-but-not-quite of



or an event that could be decided

through political deliberation (Agamben 1998).While clinicians, biom dical scientists, and bioethi cists disagree about the liminal status, indeed the life status, accorded persons labeled brain
dead, the "brain about death to debates now extends problem" the nature of consciousness,



ond, in the fife strategies opened up through biom dical techniques (such as assisted repro
duction and genetic screening). One's biolog

ical destiny (including the style and timing of

one's death), and that of one's progeny, is no

longer taken to be fixed or immutable. Fertil

ized tion embryos and genes stock. are frozen for future across implanta species to and are transferred Prevention, are possible,

the degree towhich brain dead persons can be

distinguished biguity from corpses, that and the moral persons am nor of bodies are neither

improve intervention

enhancement, even into

cadavers (Kaufman 2000; Lock 2000, 2002). Biom dical technique together with a le
gitimating paratus socio-economic creates and sustains and bioethical growing ap numbers


age, and the end of life can be postponed. The

rhetoric of "choice," combined with the pro

liferation of biom dical options, means

choice is increasingly understood as an


of liminal beings who hover in an ambiguous zone between life and death: the long-term
comatose, minimally severely conscious. demented, These alive, practices of the unconscious states of being by and life, or

perative (Rose 2001, p. 22). For those who

can one's access corporeal the new biom dical no techniques, imposes materiality longer

not-dead-but-not-fully modern force a medical remapping

sustained destabilize notions of

strict limits on the body or self (Franklin & Lock 2003, Taussig et al. 2003) and the "nat ural" can be (re)made (Rabinow 1996, p. 99; Strathern 1992). Yet the proliferation of biom dical options
couched evitably issues in a cultural raises having rhetoric about the of choice in social questions to do with and and resources "larger

death, and person in different ways than do the fetus: first, because the personhood of
these liminal subjects is assessed and nego

tiated largely through intersubjective knowl

edge, their of the and second, because the the question of embodiment self-in-the-body relations between knowledge in the is emplaced them and those who reflexive

organization, of the new




knowledge future understandings

that will makes

of what

undergird [and un

interact with them (Cohen & Leibing 2005, Kaufman 2003). In addition, these emergent
forms ings hope tures lance are that and and material troubling due do not arrive, rights that circulate that evidence of end of struc to discourses amid organize the

makes] an acceptable human being" (Taussig 2005, p. 224). Feminist anthropologists have analyzed the differentially distributed social
consequences nancy, prenatal of choice as child applied rearing, to preg and nar testing,



and maintenance.

Wozniak ratives of perfectibility (Gregg 1995, Meanwhile, choice is at best an illusion 2002).
for most little of the world's over when, peoples, how, who or from have what control


Value must


be concerned with
about value comes

to be

they or their progeny will die (or live, or have work, or give birth). Anthropologists
consistently within margins controlled. which of drawn values life For are attention and created, to choices the contexts about the and

attached to life forms (Rajan 2003). The "new ethics of biom dical subjectivity" (Novas & Rose 2000, p. 502) is characterized by dis
putes over value that are made apparent first,


negotiated, state the literally

brings people

into and out of existence by




Controlling courses,

important instrumentalities,

dis reproductive resources and

parts, body second with voke new

subjectivities, how those ethical 1996). and The



and pro


Weiss 2002). (Kligman 1995, Anthropological investigations of the value of life illustrate how valuable or vulnerable biopolitical
p. 7) and economic nobyl nuclear

ontological emotional, value of

challenges material, transplanted

(Rabinow symbolic,



subjects emerge. Petryna

the exclusion" reactor stark order of following explosion,


organs that live after death or enable life at

the expense of health is now well-trod ethno


the Cher when "bio

1999, graphic terrain (Cohen 2004, Hogle 1995, Sanner 1994, Scheper Joralemon in Hughes
306), potent

logical citizenship" began to be negotiated

"life-and-death terms" for sick survivors

2004, Sharp 2001).Waldby

describes how control icons of promised

(2002, p.
"as bi

in the

for example,

post-Soviet political economy. Cohen

pursues a similar theme in his study


embryos over our

of the ex

ology and health" are biologically engineered

to act thus and as tissue sources which are of gift circulated, and value reci transforming creating new the notions forms and of

panding market in human tissue bioavailabil ity in India (especially kidneys). He describes the sacrifice of health and corporeal integrity
so that the poor may live as modern political





subjects, participating in organ "donation" in

exchange for short-lived economic gain. Biehl

have forces devoted that less undergird

interested in biopolitics
attention and to drive the market the emer

(2001, p. 131) examines the medico-political

strategies whereby the poorest, sickest per

gence of new bioscientific

haps because their dissatisfaction

life forms, per

with histor

sons with AIDS in Brazil are socially invisi ble and of no value until they are dying and then, social death and the living dead areman aged in a special place designated for "life's leftovers." "Nobody gives a damn if I live or
die," tic risk, the tide effects of of an article substance about abuse, the synergis HIV violence,

icalmaterialism has not yet been replaced by

a meta-theoretical ism. Exceptions the commodification of global critique capital are to this trend of analyses and corporate control of

life forms. Examples include Haraway (1997) on the shift from "kind" to "brand," Franklin (2003, 2004) on stem cell development
patenting, Taussig (2004) on genetic

and prostitution are

ford, Connecticut, those who

in Hart among women sums up the perspective of from the vi bio


disenfranchised available

ture/culture inHolland,
the commodification of fetuses. sumption" Life

andTaylor (2000) on
and metaphoric itself has "con become a

tal technologies made science (Romero-Daza

through et al. 2003). Nichter

& Cartwright (1991) show the contradic tory nature of global child health campaigns
that coexist smoking, tobacco resources the global of expansion alongside to "save the children for the only as well as the industry." Compassion, necessary for survival, is dispropor

commodifiable object (Comaroff & Comaroff 2002, Sharp 2000). Participants in a School of
American Research Advanced Seminar orga

nized by Sarah Franklin andMargaret

elaborated the concept of "biocapital."


ing from Marx

predicated capitalism industry on refers creates

the notion
the extraction to the ways the conditions

that capitalism is
of that value, bio the biotech and alliances which bi

tionately distributed (Kleinman et al. 1997, Farmer 2004). to biopolitics sheds light on Attention
the complex and curious intersections that



link the constituencies that produce and uti lize the new technologies of life and death.
Much of this research has been concerned

ological objects are created and manipulated.

The extraction of value occurs when life forms

and snippets of life (such as genes, haplotypes,

or single nucleotide for private polymorphisms) ownership and are made patenting, available

first with how clinical and scientific develop

ments reconstitute relations between bodies,

The Beginnings and Ends of Life








the lived and perceived differences between

bare and fused, or natural political and life on life on "pass the one the other, one hand, are and moral collapsed, in sit

rather than toward the public good (Franklin & Lock 2003, Rajan 2003). This trend is part
of a larger transformation in the organization



and financing of bioscientific research, such that "scientific labor and technology transfer" will link "the laboratory direcdy to commer cial oudets" (Shorett et al. 2003, p. 123). With greater biocapitalism, global health becomes less of a priority and the biom dical endeavor is further distanced from its goal of advancing the public health.

uations inwhich the suspension of traditional juridico-power becomes the norm (Agamben 1998, p. 37; see also Dean 2004). Contempo rary trends indicate that anthropologists will
continue to document the collapse of bound

aries between bare/natural fife and political

life and the contested organic boundaries and between liv and ing and dead, artificial technological,

and natural.

Between Beginnings, Turner's


and Death, and Endings

(1974) concept of liminality guided much anthropological analysis of themargins of fife until Foucault's work gained promi
nence. Turner described social and and-between intense he personal statuses social the period betwixt as a time of vulnerability, as a societal and mode

in the realm of beginnings and end ings, ethnographers have addressed the broad challenge, articulated by Rose (2001, p. 5), of "markpng] out the specificity of our con temporary biopolitics." They have done this in their scrutiny of the interplay of bureau
cratic form, marketplace or activity, and biom d


ical technique that together produce liminal

entities beings. They have traced the pro



duction of scientific and symbolic knowledge

about tive these entities anomalous and politically how they and documented produc are de

in which people and societies seek out ritual authorities and practices to guard and guide them through those transitions. Anthropol
ogists influenced and by Turner the danger have appreciated in lim the power encapsulated

inal beings (such as newborns and corpses) and

their as phantasmagorical and structural spirits). functionalism gave way to manifestations (such ghosts As

ployed in negotiating boundaries and owner ship. They have described and interrogated new forms of subjectification. And finally, they have shown how the lives, bodies, and life itself
of whole, made able, itable ical, living persons and and sick, invisible, through are governed and that vulner prof biom d as well as is, healthy visible valuable

expendable, regulatory, structures

critical theory, the idea of the liminal ex

panded to include work on emergent, con

and mortal ethical,

and political

tested, and nontraditional kinds of life and the shifting cultural and political forces that gov ern life and death. Foucault (1978), for ex
ample, inherent devoted and drew attention to that the are contradictions simultaneously in societies to biopolitics life and

through strategies of citizenship,

tion, resistance, and resilience.



creating, preserving, to thanato-politics,


The writing forms of task and of representing, witnessing, the creation of persons, and cessation life and the conditions that surround

that is, the production of death through state sponsored violence. Agamben (1998) was less
concerned with the tensions than with between the horrific bioand thanato-politics poten

them will continue

three themes. First

to be driven by at least
are the transformations

tial realized when violence and the politics of death merged with life itself.He refers to that
merger as the "zone of indistinction," in which

in cultural practice (shaped by globalized po litical economies) and emerging relationships












shape birth, death, life, the constitution of the person, and opportunities for life and health. Second are the biom dical techniques and the
economic make structures the dying. that extension In possible of longation scientific them and legitimize of life and pro process, are techno creating

spond to emerging changes.We suspect itwill continue to be informed by the broad ethno
theoret their endeavors, graphic along with ical and practical that are out applications, matters within lined in this review. What the

discipline of anthropology, including its abil

ity to speak to broader audiences, will de



and practices

new forms of life, liminality, knowledge, and social organization. Third is the increasing biopolitical vulnerability of many populations through global commodification, poverty, so cial invisibility, and violence. The anthropology of life's beginnings and
ends will invariably continue to track and re

pend on how anthropologists form alliances with scientists, professional and community
organizations, and citizens of the world. It

will depend also on efforts to forge new di rections in public advocacy for vulnerable
populations, even broader power. which range will of require sites access to an and of knowledge

Important conversations with Laurie Hart, Susanne Mrozik, and Andrea Sankar helped us

think through sections of our review.We offer our heartfelt thanks to Gay Becker and Lesley Sharp for their comments on an earlier draft and our gratitude to Ann Magruder for her work
on the bibliography. Co-author names appear in alphabetical order.

Agamben G. 1998. Homo sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press.

199 pp. Anspach RR. 1993. Deciding Who Lives: Fateful Choices in the Intensive-Care Nursery. Berkeley:
Univ. Calif. Press. 303 pp.

Armstrong D.
Astuti R. Vezo 1993.

1987. Silence and truth in death and dying. Soc. Sei.Med.

Food for pregnancy: Madagascar. procreation, Soc. Anthropol. marriage 1:277-90 and images

of gender among the

of western

2001. The demon superstition: abominable twins andmission culture inOnitsha history. Ethnology 40:13-2 7 Battaglia D. 1990. On the Bones of the Serpent: Person,Memory, andMortality in Saharl Island Society. Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press. 253 pp. Men ApproachNew Reproductive Technolo Becker G. 2000. The Elusive Embryo:How Women and Bastian ML. gies. Berkeley: Univ. Calif. Press. 320 pp. Becker G. 2002. Dying away from home: quandaries of migration
groups. J. Gerontol. B 57:79-95

for elders in two ethnic

Behar R. 1996. The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks YourHeart. Boston: Beacon Press. 195 pp. Biehl JG. 2001. Vita: life in a zone of social abandonment. Soc. Text 19:131^-9 Biehl JG. 2005. Vita: Life in a Zone of SocialAbandonment. Berkeley: Univ. Calif. Press Black H, Rubenstein R. 2005. Direct care workers' response to dying and death in the nursing
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