Tuesday, April 10, 2007

[Insert noun] is people!

Have you ever read an academic article with which you disagreed?

...Okay, perhaps that's a stupid question. What I mean is, have you ever read an article by someone who is clearly well-regarded, an expert in his or her field, years ahead of you in education and experience, and yet been so fundamentally opposed to every argument made that you have to pause at the end of every paragraph to blink and shake your head and mutter "Oh no she didn't". Where your marginalia, instead of cogent points like "Cf. x's article on y" and "key point!" and "is this supported by the evidence" is replaced by unhelpful but sincere scribblings of "bitch, please!" and "wtf, mf?" and, bien sûr, "oh no she didn't".

This is the dilemma I'm finding myself in while doing research for my International Human Rights Law paper on organ theft and transplant tourism (well, one of the dilemmas...the other involves finding some way to work in a Soylent Green joke). One of the main writers on the topic, a go-to person if you will, is so hypocritical, biased, and unanalytical in her writing that I'm seriously considering writing a reply and trying to get it published.

Points of angry-making:

  • Un-ironic use of the term "neocannibalism" to describe people who go from Western/developed countries to get organs from other countries. Why is this a problem? Well, if you've known me for any length of time, you have no doubt heard my rant about the post-colonial lit prof I had in undergrad (also, btw, a world-renowned expert) who, among other statements with which I disagreed, told us that cannibalism is no different from communion, and we only felt uncomfortable about or sickened by it because we were culturally biased and euro-centric and could never understand anything outside our own terminally white experience. I tried to point out to her that while cannibalism might be a morally neutral activity (I'm talking ritual religious cannibalism here) it was an objectively negative or otherwise pathological activity because it causes Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (I was wrong, actually it causes Kuru...close enough).
  • Constantly problematizing the idea that the poor of India/Turkey/Brazil/wherever are capable of making the free "choice" to sell their kidneys, since their choices are constrained by the grinding poverty in which they live. Now, that is not in itself a problem; usually I find anti-paternal-arguments-from-autonomy suspect for the following reason: poor people are stupid--not because they are poor, but because they are people. However, when rich people fall on their asses, they are protected by a fat wad of cash, whereas poor people shatter their coccyx. I developed this theory through a childhood lived in uncomfortable proximity to the poverty line. At any rate, what bothers me is that the author goes on and on about the constraints poverty places on free choice, while seemingly ignoring the constraints on choice that come from the fact that your organs are failing and you are dying.
  • Begging the question left right and centre, particularly on the issue of whether the dead have an interest in their organs sufficient to make presumed-consent regimes objectively harmful. Let me repreat this, for clarity: she (and she is not the only one, by any means) sincerely contests that dead people have a right to coporeal integrity that is based on...their right to corporeal integrity. No religious or practical reason for this right is given--it appears to be a freestanding and inalienable right.

I have spent weeks trying to wrap my head around that last one without any luck. This paper is going to be...interesting.

And now, in a show of pop-culture solidarity unrelated to the above, a favourite quote from a favourite television show:

(After swiping a glass of water off a table in anger)

Ghost Dean: Dude, I full-on Swazyed that mother!

No comments: