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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 3.19

Commodification, Community and Post/Colonialism: Attitudes and emotions surrounding organ and tissue donation among a group of African Caribbean people in the UK


  • Catherine Eleanor Lucy HODGE

Primary authors


This paper stems from ethnographic fieldwork carried out in an African Caribbean Community Centre in a diverse and deindustrialising British city in 2017, before the scale of the Windrush immigration scandal was revealed and felt. It seeks to examine how post/colonial collective memory, mistrust and lived experience of sustained disregard across at least three generations influence community members’ attitudes towards and intentions surrounding organ and tissue donation. Drawing initially on Mauss, I argue that the ‘gift-giving’ metaphors employed in campaigns to increase donation amongst the black British population fail to take account of long histories of post/colonial abuses of and disdain for black bodies and their inhabitants, as well as repeated exclusion from ‘the whole’ population, declared to be bound together by reciprocal relationships of gift-giving and compassion. I suggest that such discussions and campaigns should be approached with honest and open recognition of these realities which cannot but affect the highly emotionally charged, and, in these circumstances, entirely rational decision of whether to donate one’s organs, rejecting the narratives of superstition, irrationality and ‘illegitimate’ interpretation of religious texts frequently employed around this topic, particularly in grey literature produced by the NHS.