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Life Exposed: Biological Citizens after Chernobyl

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Overview

On April 26, 1986, Unit Four of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor exploded in then Soviet Ukraine. More than 3.5 million people in Ukraine alone, not to mention many citizens of surrounding countries, are still suffering the effects. Life Exposed is the first book to comprehensively examine the vexed political, scientific, and social circumstances that followed the disaster. Tracing the story from an initial lack of disclosure to post-Soviet democratizing attempts to compensate sufferers, Adriana Petryna uses anthropological tools to take us into a world whose social realities are far more immediate and stark than those described by policymakers and scientists. She asks: What happens to politics when state officials fail to inform their fellow citizens of real threats to life? What are the moral and political consequences of remedies available in the wake of technological disasters?

Through extensive research in state institutions, clinics, laboratories, and with affected families and workers of the so-called Zone, Petryna illustrates how the event and its aftermath have not only shaped the course of an independent nation but have made health a negotiated realm of entitlement. She tracks the emergence of a "biological citizenship" in which assaults on health become the coinage through which sufferers stake claims for biomedical resources, social equity, and human rights. Life Exposed provides an anthropological framework for understanding the politics of emergent democracies, the nature of citizenship claims, and everyday forms of survival as they are interwoven with the profound changes that accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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Editorial Reviews

Medical Humanities Review
Petryna's ethnographic approach consciously shapes her account and illuminates it with detail that historians of the future will treasure.
— Jeanne Guillemin
Medical Humanities Review - Jeanne Guillemin
Petryna's ethnographic approach consciously shapes her account and illuminates it with detail that historians of the future will treasure.
Journal of the American Medical Association - LARissa Remennick
The book presents exceptionally rich anthropological material generated through observations and interviews. . . . The true scope of the human tragedy caused by this man-made catastrophe comes to the fore via biological stories of Petryna's informants. . . . Most of the book's heroes were directly affected by radioactive fallout and often paid a terrible price, losing their physical and mental health.
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute - Jonathan P. Parry
[Chernobyl] is a dramatic and important story, and Life Exposed is a compelling book. . . . [A]n important study that will interest a wide anthropological audience.
Journal of the American Medical Association
The book presents exceptionally rich anthropological material generated through observations and interviews. . . . The true scope of the human tragedy caused by this man-made catastrophe comes to the fore via biological stories of Petryna's informants. . . . Most of the book's heroes were directly affected by radioactive fallout and often paid a terrible price, losing their physical and mental health.
— Larissa Remennick
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
[Chernobyl] is a dramatic and important story, and Life Exposed is a compelling book. . . . [A]n important study that will interest a wide anthropological audience.
— Jonathan P. Parry
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
[Chernobyl] is a dramatic and important story, and Life Exposed is a compelling book. . . . [A]n important study that will interest a wide anthropological audience.
— Jonathan P. Parry
From the Publisher

Winner of the 2006 New Millenium Award, Society of Medical Anthropology

Co-Winner of the 2003 Sharon Stephens First Book Award, American Ethnological Society

"Petryna's ethnographic approach consciously shapes her account and illuminates it with detail that historians of the future will treasure."--Jeanne Guillemin, Medical Humanities Review

"The book presents exceptionally rich anthropological material generated through observations and interviews. . . . The true scope of the human tragedy caused by this man-made catastrophe comes to the fore via biological stories of Petryna's informants. . . . Most of the book's heroes were directly affected by radioactive fallout and often paid a terrible price, losing their physical and mental health."--Larissa Remennick, Journal of the American Medical Association

"[Chernobyl] is a dramatic and important story, and Life Exposed is a compelling book. . . . [A]n important study that will interest a wide anthropological audience."--Jonathan P. Parry, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691090191
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2002
  • Series: In-formation Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 6.84 (w) x 8.72 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables
Acknowledgments
Note on Transliteration
Ch. 1 Life Politics after Chernobyl 1
Ch. 2 Technical Error: Measures of Life and Risk 34
Ch. 3 Chernobyl in Historical Light 63
Ch. 4 Illness as Work: Human Market Transition 82
Ch. 5 Biological Citizenship 115
Ch. 6 Local Science and Organic Processes 149
Ch. 7 Self and Social Identity in Transition 191
Ch. 8 Conclusion 215
Notes 221
Bibliography 239
Index 253
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