Seminar 4 February – Adam Chau

January 30th, 2014 by

Mond Building Seminar Room


Tuesday 4 February

Adam Chau

University of Cambridge

Human Organs in Oil Tank Trucks: An Extractology

Since the 1980s the northern part of Shaanbei (northern Shaanxi Province) and neighbouring areas of Inner Mongolia have been experiencing a huge economic boom, thanks to the discovery and successful extraction of coal, oil and natural gas. While conducting fieldwork on the revival of popular religion in this region in the mid- and late 1990s I came across legends relating to suspicions of human organs being transported in large oil tank trucks going out of Shaanbei. Could there have been a link between what is invisible that lies underneath the surface of the earth (coal and oil) and those that lie within human bodies but then allegedly taken out and transported in oil tank trucks (human organs)? This article proposes an ‘extractological’ approach that unites yet critiques the heretofore separate fields of anthropological studies on extractive industries and the commercialisation of human organ transplants. In analysing the image of ‘human organs in oil tank trucks’ in juxtaposition with various other pertinent extractological scenarios an analytical tack emerges that goes beyond (or by-pass?) the anti-extraction politics of indignation and points towards an anthropology of conceptual interfacing and articulation (through investigating various kinds of ‘conceptual clutches’).

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