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Moving away from the iconic dyad of organ donor and organ recipient, this chapter delves into the social life of the kidney itself to engage one of the key analytic frames that anthropology has brought to the study of transplantation. First, exploring how the notions of gift and commodity have operated as analytic icons in anthropology writ large helps to reveal the moral and affective politics of the gift/commodity frame at work in the anthropology of transplant more specifically. Finding this frame illuminating but also limiting, this chapter argues for shifting the analytic gaze to include a longer temporal view and a wider relational field than the gift/commodity frame usually invites. In tracking the social life of individual kidneys in Mexico over the course of their distinctive biographies in fine-grained detail, this chapter pursues a more processual sense of the possibilities produced when human organs are set into circulation, revealing the multiple and ever-shifting ways that social relations of various kinds may be thickened or thinned, loosened or tightened, sweetened or embittered in the face of transplantation. Rendered in rich (though inescapably insufficient) detail, the view of transplantation produced by this approach becomes usefully harder both to domesticate and to exoticize.

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