This article is an attempt, through a personal encounter with terminal cancer, to elaborate some of what terminality consists in, compared with other similar concepts, such as living in prognosis, dying, or suspension. The terminal body is a body from which promise, hope, and potential have been withdrawn. Linking it in part to the secular elimination of the afterlife and the confinement of person to a finite body whose time is limited entirely to itself, such that time and body become coterminous, the author argues that terminality changes the embodiment of time in a specific way: feeling temporality as a countdown in hours, days, or months, terminality is experienced as a body ticking with the sound of its own end.
Abou Farman is an artist and anthropologist. He is the author of Clerks of the Passage (2012). His research is published in Cultural Anthropology, Anthropological Quarterly, and Anthropology Now. As part of caraballofarman (with Leonor Caraballo), Abou has exhibited work internationally, including at the Tate Modern, MoMA PS1, and the Havana Biennial.