1. Various terms have been used in the biomedical and social scientific literatures
to describe brain- dead organ donors, reflecting the considerable cultural work and se-
mantic politics that have gone into constituting these entities as “dead” despite their
continued breathing and fluid circulation when maintained by medical technologies
such as the ventilator (see chapter 2). Although the term most commonly employed
in the United States is now deceased donor, I use the term cadaveric donor throughout this
study as it is closest to the term donante cadaverico used to denote these donors in Mexico
during the time of this research.
2. For example, the United Network for Organ Sharing reports comparative graft sur-
vival rates for cadaveric vs. living donor transplants in the United States from 1997–2004
as 89 percent vs. 95.1 percent in the first year posttransplant, 77.8 percent vs. 89.9 percent
in the third year, and 66.5 percent vs. 79.7 percent in the fifth year
3. My own positioning as a “gringa anthropologist” is a necessary part of this eth-
nographic account and is taken up more explicitly in the Tracking Transplantation sec-
tion later in this chapter (see also Nelson 1999: 41–73 for an extensive theorizing of the
pleasures and perils of a gringa anthropology).
4. This is precisely the kind of symbolic, celebratory allure mobilized by the pio-
neering transplant surgeon Joseph Murray in the 1960s when he imagined organ trans-
plantation as a means for enabling space travel, suggesting that the ability to replace
worn- out body parts might be just what was needed to bridge the vast, beckoning
distances of the cosmos (Murray 1966). At a time when faith in science was perhaps
at an all- time high and the international space race was a charged site of nationalist
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