Unmaking Responsibility: Patient Death and Face Transplantation

Samuel Taylor-Alexander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Responsibility is now a key topic in the social sciences and humanities. Authors have investigated the increasing devolution of responsibility from state to citizens (responsibilization) and the competing responsibilities that exist in everyday life. Building on this literature, I show that, just as responsibility is shifted from state to citizen, it is also made and unmade. I examine such unmaking in the context of face transplantation, a form of experimental biomedicine that, even before it came to be, was riddled by patient death. The two components of responsibility—imputation and accountability—are decoupled in reports of patient death in the field, undoing the pertinence and applicability of the concept. Reflecting on this decoupling by situating it within the broader apparatus of face transplantation, I suggest that we need to pay additional attention to how responsibility is both done and undone, made and unmade.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-516
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Issue number4
Early online date31 May 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 May 2016


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