My Heart Will Go On: The cybernetics of organ harvesting, donor (im)mortality and the politics of the non-self

Karen De Looze

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In this paper, I inquire how conceptualisations of self affect practices of organ exchange. I unravel assumptions on the self of the medico-scientific community and question them, using some key alternatives that arise in literature in comparative philosophy, and researching alternatives in India. More specifically, I aim to extend interpretative tools, looking into concepts of `inter-being' and `non-being'. I then illustrate how differing patterns in `self'-understanding may cause tension vis-à-vis both the network and practice of organ harvesting. Aside from tensions that become visible in overt patterns of social stratification relations, hidden theories of affliction play a crucial role. To uncover these hidden tensions I use Hogle's concept of a `residue of personhood'. This residue may, after transplantation from a brain dead donor, provoke the generation of a symbolic `donor immortality' and/or induce the experience of `bewitchment' in a host body. This contrasts with the biological death arising in `the giver of life' at the moment of organ transfer. Hence, the problematic conjunction of regeneration and mortuary ritual that seems inherent in the practice of organ exchange.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWorldviews, Science and Us: bridging knowledge and its implications for our perspective of the world
EditorsDiederik Aerts, Jan Broekaert, Bart D'hooghe, Nicole Note
PublisherWorld Scientific Publishing
Number of pages360
ISBN (Print)978-981-4383-07-3
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2011

Publication series

NameWorldviews, Science and Us
PublisherWorld Scientific

Bibliographical note

Diederik Aerts, Jan Broekaert, Bart D'Hooghe, Nicole Note


  • organ donation
  • symbolic immortality
  • intercultural philosophy


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