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Palgrave Macmillan

On Face Transplantation

Life and Ethics in Experimental Biomedicine

ISBN 9781137452719
Publication Date August 2014
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Pivot

Drawing together interview material, medical publications, and first-hand accounts, this book shows that what is being remade in the burgeoning medical field of face transplantation is not only the lives of patients, but also the very ways that state institutions, surgeons, and families make sense of rights, claims for inclusion, and life itself. This sophisticated account traces the work done by medical and bureaucratic elites to make the life threatening operation a clinical reality. Working within the context of increasing ethical scrutiny, their endeavour has resulted in the delineation of the 'ideal patient' of face transplantation: a person whose particular state of health and suffering allows the operation to be performed given current technical constraints. The operation has introduced into the lives of face transplant recipients a profoundly new sense of personhood in which they continue to negotiate questions of how to relate to their new biology and to those around them.

Samuel Taylor-Alexander is a Teaching Fellow at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and was previously a Visiting Fellow in the Science, Technology and Society Program at Harvard University, USA.

1. A History of the Present
2. Institutionalized Personhood
3. Self-formation and Ethical Being
4. Constituting a Field


"The politics of medicine, the sociotechnical assembling of norms and harms, and the constitution of subjects are skilfully shown by Taylor-Alexander to be processes that are tightly interwoven - indeed, co-produced - in the experimental clinical praxis of face-transplantation. In this subtle book we confront key questions around identity and care that resist easy answers, and are invited into a world of operating theatres, drugs, scars and mirrors that few of us will encounter but which demand consideration and engagement." - Martyn Pickersgill, University of Edinburgh, UK
"With this poignant reflection on face transplants, Taylor-Alexander stretches the genre of anthropology of medicine […] prompting us to think again about the meaning of ethical treatment, and the mismatch of power between healer and healed, as biomedicine blurs the boundaries between life and death." - Sheila Jasanoff, Harvard Kennedy School, USA
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