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Book Review: Subject to Death: Life and Loss in a Buddhist World

The book starts out with a conundrum—a classical anthropological ploy. Attending a New Year’s gathering with Hyolmo Tibetan friends in Queens, New York, the author witnesses one of the men goading a young child to take notice that his mother has just left the room to go down the hall. “Khoi?,” he asks, which means […]

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Book Review: Plastic Bodies: Sex Hormones and Menstrual Suppression in Brazil

In a place where bodies are routinely modified via medical interventions and prominent physicians declare “war on menstruation,” what are hormonal contraceptives and what sociobiological tasks do they perform? These are the questions Emilia Sanabria’s Plastic Bodies aims to answer. Her fine ethnography offers an analytically sophisticated account of the multiple trajectories of menstrual blood […]

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Book Review: Metrics: What Counts in Global Health

We live in an era of the ascendency of numbers. Forms of measurement, enumeration, and calculation increasingly constitute the basis for authoritative truth claims across a wide range of fields, from financial forecasting to the fitness of individuals and the management of populations. What to make of this phenomenon from the perspective of medical anthropology? […]

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Book Review: Testing Fate: Tay-Sachs Disease and the Right to Be Responsible

In Testing Fate, Shelley Reuter applies perspectives in critical sociology to the study of Tay-Sachs disease. Tay-Sachs is a rare genetic disorder that is degenerative and results in a fatal outcome (usually) during infancy. Reuter problematizes the ways in which responsibility—as both a conduct of self-care and of “belonging”—has been cultivated over time in the […]

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Book Review: Domesticating Organ Transplant: Familial Sacrifice and National Aspiration in Mexico

In Domesticating Organ Transplant, Megan Crowley-Matoka situates Mexico within a broader discussion of transplantation and situates the experiences of Mexicans—donors, recipients, and transplant professionals, among others—within a context of local values and realities. Despite popular assumptions that transplantation in Mexico must be tainted by criminality, the book demonstrates the everyday ways in which transplant technology—particularly […]

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Book Review: No Place for Grief: Martyrs, Prisoners, and Mourning in Contemporary Palestine

No Place for Grief is an ethnography of the lives of Palestinian women whose husbands became martyrs or were incarcerated in Israeli prisons. Lotte Buch Segal explores the language available to these women to express their suffering and analyzes how this suffering can become acknowledged in a society that struggles under Israeli military occupation. Dealing […]

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Book Review: Living and Dying in the Contemporary World: A Compendium

The word compendium comes from the Latin com (together) + pendere (weigh), and indeed Das and Han’s volume takes up the hefty task of weighing together and taking stock of contemporary work in medical anthropology. Their title, Living and Dying in the Contemporary World, sums up both their approach and their central claim that a […]

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Book Review: Can Science Resolve the Nature/Nurture Debate?

Whenever social scientists ask a question in a book title, especially a question about the power of science to achieve something, the answer is obviously “No.” Indeed, we do not have to wait long before the suspense is lifted. Margaret Lock and Gisli Palsson answer the question Can Science Resolve the Nature/Nurture Debate? with “The […]

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Book Review: Infectious Change. Reinventing Chinese Public Health after an Epidemic

Katherine Mason’s Infectious Change is the first published ethnography on a key epidemiological and public health apparatus in the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC). Mason focuses in particular on of one of its stations in South China, in a city she calls “Tianmai,”—an important destination for […]

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Book Review: Best Laid Plans: Cultural Entropy and the Unraveling of AIDS Media Campaigns

Terence McDonnell offers a biographic cartography of the carefully planned and expensive HIV/AIDS campaigns in Accra, Ghana, revealing the disorder and distortion that often occurs when well-intentioned media communications are released to the public. The concept of “cultural entropy” is presented to describe the process through which the energy invested in cultural objects, in this […]

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