Body and Person – University of Copenhagen

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Medical STS > Projects > Body and Person

Governing Exchange in 21st Century Biomedicine

Modern medical know-how and treatment rely on access to bodies. Bodies, dead and alive, supply materials used in transplantations, surgical training, anatomical dissection, and fertility treatments. In such contexts the body shifts meaning. It not only represents a person but also becomes a resource and thereby takes on a double role as both end and means.

We know very little about how the involved actors handle the dilemmas this implicates, just as there is no empirical research on how, when, and why some parts of the body are understood as essential “wholes” whereas others are seen as merely “parts” which can easily be distributed as part of public health services.

Body and Person: Governing Exchange in 21st Century Biomedicine analyses relations between body and person in light of what is conceived as part and whole through exploring strategically different forms of exchanges of human-biological materials.

We will compare parts of the heart, the brain, and the eyes (parts of organs often understood as the essence of a person); full cadaver donation (dividing a body after death); and sperm donation (a cell that can be understood as part of a person whose life has not yet begun).

We will look at the politics governing these exchanges, their translations into practice, the implications of these exchanges for the parties involved, and we contrast the different actors’ experiences and concerns with political intentions and frameworks