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Suicide and Agency


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Table of Contents

Part I Introduction: The anthropology of suicide: ethnography and the tension of agency, Daniel Münster and Ludek Broz. Part II Suicide, Personhood and Relationality: Personhood, agency and suicide in a neo-liberalizing South India, James Staples; The lonely un-dead and returning suicide in northwest Greenland, Janne Flora; Between demons and disease: suicide and agency in Yucatan, Mexico, Beatriz M. Reyes-Foster; Four funerals and a wedding: suicide, sacrifice, and (non-)human agency in a Siberian village, Ludek Broz. Part III Self-Destruction and Power: Bodies, Resistance and Crises: Farmers' suicide and the moral economy of agriculture: victimhood, voice, and agro-environmental responsibility in South India, Daniel Münster; Dying to live in Palestine: steadfastness, pollution and embodied space, Deen Sharp and Natalia Linos; Accumulating death: women’s moral agency and domestic economies of care in South India, Jocelyn Chua; Learning suicide and the limits of agency: children’s ‘suicide play’ in Sri Lanka, Tom Widger; Suicide, agency and the limits of power, Katrina Jaworski. Part IV Afterword: Afterword: taking relationality to extremes, Marilyn Strathern

About the Author

Ludek Broz is a researcher at the Institute of Ethnology, The Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic. Daniel Münster is a junior research group leader in the cluster of excellence 'Asia and Europe in a Global Context' at Heidelberg University, Germany.


This volume makes an important contribution to scholarship on agency in suicide. It offers ethnographic perspectives that complicate mainstream understandings around the transculturally persistent practice of self-killing. However, as it describes living through and with suicide, it adds more. As Strathern notes in her afterword, this volume not only contributes to understanding suicide and agency through local ontologies, but also shows how suicide tells us about aspects of social life.C.M. Cassady Wayne State University, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (JRAI), 2018

"This volume is an excellent and much-needed addition to the literature on suicide. Notions of personhood, agency and suicide are interrogated throughout in rigorous and illuminating ways, and the book clearly demonstrates the valuable contribution anthropology can make to the study of suicide."— Ian Marsh, Canterbury Christ Church University, UK "We frequently imagine suicide as both an extreme expression of control and an act of the out-of-control. The pieces gathered in this important and timely volume make a virtue of that tension, describing the complex realities in which self-inflicted death and knowledge about such death take shape. They show how suicide is not only about exceptional deaths, but about routine ways of life."— Kenneth MacLeish, Vanderbilt University, USA "In the best anthropological tradition, this book heads to what many would consider the margins of social life (in this case suicide), and uses what it learns there to illuminate absolutely central issues of social theory (in this case notions of agency). Those who study suicide, death and dying cannot miss this book, but anyone interested in fresh social theoretical thinking should also want to read it."— Joel Robbins, University of Cambridge, UK

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