• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

Dying is a social as well as physiological phenomenon. Each society characterizes and, consequently, treats death and dying in its own individual ways—ways that differ markedly. These particular patterns of death and dying engender modal cultural responses, and such institutionalized behavior has familiar, economical, educational, religious, and political implications. The Handbook of Death and Dying takes stock of the vast literature in the field.

Body Recycling
Body recycling

Recycling bodies and body parts is an important social phenomenon that has received significant attention from social scientists, policymakers, and historians. This body of scholarship recognizes that the recycling of body parts after death is shaped by cultural beliefs and social institutions. As Anthony Synnott (1993) suggests, “The body is not a ‘given,’ but a social category with different meanings imposed and developed by every age, and by different sectors of the population” (p. 23). The literature that examines the reuse of bodies and body parts illuminates the social categories and meanings that influence how bodies are and have been recycled.

In this chapter, we examine six areas of body recycling—organ transplantation, medical school donations, the display of bodies in museums, war and ...

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