Liminality and affectivity: the case of deceased organ donation

Stenner, Paul and Moreno, Eduardo (2013). Liminality and affectivity: the case of deceased organ donation. Subjectivity, 6(3) pp. 229–253.



Building on ethnographic work on deceased organ donation in Spain, this paper supplements the concept of affectivity at the core of the emerging field of affect studies with a concept of liminality. The paper begins by focussing on relevant scenes in Pedro Almodóvar’s 1999 film “All about my mother”, using these as a spring-board to discuss the recent ‘turn to affect’ amongst social scientists and humanities scholars. This ‘turn’ is characterized in relation to a move towards the ‘event’ side of a ‘structure / event’ polarity. A case is made for a process approach which better integrates event and structure, and better links ontological and empirical dimensions of research. To these ends, a distinction is drawn between an ontological account of liminality (informed by the process philosophy A.N. Whitehead) and an anthropological account (informed by the process anthropology of V. Turner and A. Szakolczai), both of which give a decisive role to affect or ‘feeling’ qua liminal transition at the joints and other interstices of structural order. The paper ends with a return to ethnographic observations relevant to the characterisation of the deceased organ donation dispositif as a novel form of liminal affective technology.

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