Suicide and Agency offers an original and timely challenge to existing ways of understanding suicide. Through the use of rich and detailed case studies, the authors assembled in this volume explore how interplay of self-harm, suicide, personhood and agency varies markedly across site (Greenland, Siberia, India, Palestine and Mexico) and setting (self-run leprosy colony, suicide bomb attack, cash-crop farming, middle-class mothering). Rather than starting from a set definition of suicide, they empirically engage suicide fields-the wider domains of practices and of sense making, out of which realized, imaginary, or disputed suicides emerge. By drawing on ethnographic methods and approaches, a new comparative angle to understanding suicide beyond mainstream Western bio-medical and classical sociological conceptions of the act as an individual or social pathology is opened up. The book explores a number of ontological assumptions about the role of free will, power, good and evil, personhood, and intentionality in both popular and expert explanations of suicide. Suicide and Agency offers a substantial and ground-breaking contribution to the emerging field of the anthropology of suicide. It will appeal to a range of scholars and students, including those in anthropology, sociology, social psychology, cultural studies, suicidology, and social studies of death and dying.
"This volume is an excellent and much-needed addition to the literature on suicide. Notions of personhood, agency and suicide are interrogated throughout in rigorous and illuminating ways, and the book clearly demonstrates the valuable contribution anthropology can make to the study of suicide."— Ian Marsh, Canterbury Christ Church University, UK
"We frequently imagine suicide as both an extreme expression of control and an act of the out-of-control. The pieces gathered in this important and timely volume make a virtue of that tension, describing the complex realities in which self-inflicted death and knowledge about such death take shape. They show how suicide is not only about exceptional deaths, but about routine ways of life."— Kenneth MacLeish, Vanderbilt University, USA
"In the best anthropological tradition, this book heads to what many would consider the margins of social life (in this case suicide), and uses what it learns there to illuminate absolutely central issues of social theory (in this case notions of agency). Those who study suicide, death and dying cannot miss this book, but anyone interested in fresh social theoretical thinking should also want to read it."— Joel Robbins, University of Cambridge, UK
Part I Introduction: The anthropology of suicide: ethnography and the tension of agency, Daniel Münster and Ludek Broz. Part II Suicide, Personhood and Relationality: Personhood, agency and suicide in a neo-liberalizing South India, James Staples; The lonely un-dead and returning suicide in northwest Greenland, Janne Flora; Between demons and disease: suicide and agency in Yucatan, Mexico, Beatriz M. Reyes-Foster; Four funerals and a wedding: suicide, sacrifice, and (non-)human agency in a Siberian village, Ludek Broz. Part III Self-Destruction and Power: Bodies, Resistance and Crises: Farmers' suicide and the moral economy of agriculture: victimhood, voice, and agro-environmental responsibility in South India, Daniel Münster; Dying to live in Palestine: steadfastness, pollution and embodied space, Deen Sharp and Natalia Linos; Accumulating death: women’s moral agency and domestic economies of care in South India, Jocelyn Chua; Learning suicide and the limits of agency: children’s ‘suicide play’ in Sri Lanka, Tom Widger; Suicide, agency and the limits of power, Katrina Jaworski. Part IV Afterword: Afterword: taking relationality to extremes, Marilyn Strathern
Eventually we all die - and we experience death head-on, when someone close to us dies. This series, Studies in Death, Materiality and the Origin of Time, identifies this fact as constitutive of the origin of human conceptions of time. Time permeates everything, but except for time itself all things are perishable - yet, it is only through the perishable world of things and bodies that we sense time. Bringing together scholarly work across a range of disciplines, the series explores the fact that human experiences and conceptions of time inherently hinge on the material world, and that time as a socially experienced phenomenon cannot be understood as separate from material form or expression. As such, it departs from a persistent current within Western thinking. Philosophy, biology and physics, among other disciplines, have studied time as an essential, ethereal and abstract concept. In the same way, death has often been conceived of in abstract and sometimes transcendental terms as occupying one extreme margin of human life. As an alternative, this series examines the ways in which bodily death and material decay are central points of reference in social life, which offer key insights into human perceptions of time.