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Featured: Miklós Radnóti: Letters to My Wife by Thomas Ország-Land

In Europe, Featured, history, literature, poetry, writers on October 31, 2013 at 02:07

Featured: Miklós Radnóti: Letters to My Wife; Translated from the Hungarian & Edited by Thomas Ország-Land

HOLOUCASTimage

Radnóti & his wife Fifi

THE AUTHOR of these pieces was perhaps the greatest poet of the Holocaust. His work will take centre place in a varied and energetic programme of literary and educational events in 2014 marking Hungary’s Holocaust Memorial Year.
This project just announced by the government in Budapest will commemorate the murder of hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilian captives including Radnóti – mostly Jews but also Roma, homosexuals and political dissidents – perpetrated by the Hungarian state in collaboration with Nazi Germany. This happened during the final and most intensive phase of the Holocaust at the close of WWII when an Allied victory was already obvious.
The first of the three poems below was written on the eve of Radnóti’s final arrest and deportation to a slave labour camp in occupied Serbia. The poem is quoted by the Hungarian prime minister’s office announcing the Holocaust memorial programme. It is also set in bronze at the site where the poet and 21 of his comrades were murdered by their guards.
And the following two – set out in careful, even handwriting, complete with printers’ instructions – were found on his body in a notebook recovered from their mass grave after the war. Radnóti died displaying a white armband that signified his Jewish birth and official (and totally sincere) conversion to Catholicism.
His poetry has been translated into many languages and taught at many universities. Today, Radnóti is a beloved national figure in Hungary despite the current rise of anti-semitism in his native land. These translations will be included in The Survivors: Holocaust Poetry for Our Time by Thomas Ország-Land, to be published by Smokestack Press in England in 2014.

I. FRAGMENT

I lived upon this earth in such an age
when man was so debased he sought to murder
for pleasure, not just to comply with orders,
his faith in falsehoods drove him to corruption,
his life was ruled by raving self-deceptions.

I lived upon this earth in such an age
that idolized the sly police informers,
whose heroes were the killers, spies, the thieves –
and the few who held their peace or only failed
to cheer were loathed like victims of the plague.

I lived upon this earth in such an age
when those who risked protest were wise to hide
and gnaw their fists in self-consuming shame –
the crazed folk grinned about their terrifying
doomed future, wild and drunk on blood and mire.

I lived upon this earth in such an age
when the mother of an infant was a curse,
when pregnant women were glad to abort,
the living envied the corpses in the graves
while on the table foamed their poisoned cup.
……………………….
……………………….
I lived upon this earth in such an age
when even the poet fell silent and waited in hope
for an ancient, terrible voice to rise again –
for no-one could utter a fitting curse of such horror
but the scholar of dreadful words, Isaiah the prophet.
……………………….

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On Maieutic Machines by Michael Kinnucan

In languages, philosophy on October 31, 2013 at 01:49

From: On Maieutic Machines by Michael Kinnucan, Hypocrite Reader, http://hypocritereader.com

Socrates asks the young Theaetetus: what is knowledge? He says he really wants to know. Theaetetus hesitates a bit (he’s heard rumors about this guy), but answers in the end: Knowledge of geometry, of astronomy, knowledge of shoemaking and leatherworking—these, and things like them, are knowledge. And let’s be fair to Theaetetus: it’s not as though he’s wrong. Geometry is knowledge, or a knowledge anyway, in one extremely common and useful sense of the word “is.” It’s not an ignorance, certainly, nor is it for example a tree. It is knowledge. He knows his shapes.

Socrates is not satisfied, however. He raises two objections. First, when he said he didn’t know what knowledge was, Theaetetus evidently did not take him at his word: he keeps using the word “knowledge” in his answers, just as if Socrates knew what “knowledge” meant, when Socrates (unless he’s lying, which is likely) well and truly does not know what “knowledge” means. Second, Theaetetus offers a longwinded answer, or rather an indefinite one—presumably there is a knowledge of every fish in the sea, and we could spend our lives listing them off and never come to the end of it, but surely there’s a simple way to say what all the things share that we call knowledge. Surely in some sense they’re all alike. We don’t call them all knowledge by consulting some monstrous heterogeneous list.

Socrates gives the example of mud. You can do all sorts of things with mud—jump in it, wipe it off your feet, make bricks. But saying all the uses of mud would be neither necessary nor sufficient to define it. There’s a short way around: mix water and dirt, you’ve got mud. So (he seems to imply), what do you mix to get knowledge?

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Reposted with permission from: Hypocrite Reader

The Treason of Intellectuals by Chris Hedges

In ethics, government, history, war on October 31, 2013 at 01:33

From: The Treason of Intellectuals by Chris Hedges, Common Dreams, https://www.commondreams.org

The rewriting of history by the power elite was painfully evident as the nation marked the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. Some claimed they had opposed the war when they had not. Others among “Bush’s useful idiots” argued that they had merely acted in good faith on the information available; if they had known then what they know now, they assured us, they would have acted differently. This, of course, is false. The war boosters, especially the “liberal hawks”—who included Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Al Franken and John Kerry, along with academics, writers and journalists such as Bill Keller, Michael Ignatieff, Nicholas Kristof, David Remnick, Fareed Zakaria, Michael Walzer, Paul Berman, Thomas Friedman, George Packer, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Kanan Makiya and the late Christopher Hitchens—did what they always have done: engage in acts of self-preservation. To oppose the war would have been a career killer. And they knew it.(Illustration by Mr. Fish)

brainiac_attack_copyThese apologists, however, acted not only as cheerleaders for war; in most cases they ridiculed and attempted to discredit anyone who questioned the call to invade Iraq. Kristof, in The New York Times, attacked the filmmaker Michael Moore as a conspiracy theorist and wrote that anti-war voices were only polarizing what he termed “the political cesspool.” Hitchens said that those who opposed the attack on Iraq “do not think that Saddam Hussein is a bad guy at all.” He called the typical anti-war protester a “blithering ex-flower child or ranting neo-Stalinist.” The halfhearted mea culpas by many of these courtiers a decade later always fail to mention the most pernicious and fundamental role they played in the buildup to the war—shutting down public debate. Those of us who spoke out against the war, faced with the onslaught of right-wing “patriots” and their liberal apologists, became pariahs. In my case it did not matter that I was an Arabic speaker. It did not matter that I had spent seven years in the Middle East, including months in Iraq, as a foreign correspondent. It did not matter that I knew the instrument of war. The critique that I and other opponents of war delivered, no matter how well grounded in fact and experience, turned us into objects of scorn by a liberal elite that cravenly wanted to demonstrate its own “patriotism” and “realism” about national security. The liberal class fueled a rabid, irrational hatred of all war critics. Many of us received death threats and lost our jobs, for me one at The New York Times. These liberal warmongers, 10 years later, remain both clueless about their moral bankruptcy and cloyingly sanctimonious. They have the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocents on their hands.
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When Exclusion Replaces Exploitation by Daniel Zamora

In economy, Europe, government, history, philosophy, politics, society, sociology on October 21, 2013 at 05:36

From: When Exclusion Replaces Exploitation: The Condition of the Surplus-Population under Neoliberalism by Daniel Zamora, Nonsite.org, http://nonsite.org

In 1992, 13 years after Margaret Thatcher’s “neoliberal revolution,” the Iron Lady’s chief economic advisor, Alan Budd, declared that he had his doubts that “the 1980’s policies of attacking inflation by squeezing the economy and public spending” had ever really been taken seriously by those at the helm of government. Rather, he wondered if they weren’t really a “cover to bash the workers. Raising unemployment,” he pointed out, “was a very desirable way of reducing the strength of the working class. What was engineered—in Marxist terms—was a crisis of capitalism which re-created a reserve army of labor, and has allowed the capitalists to make high profits ever since.”1 The interest of this anecdote is in its implicit suggestion of a link between the socio-political destabilization and fragmentation of the wage-earning working class (the intensification, in other words, of the difference between the working army of labour and the unemployed reserve) and the politics pursued during the decades following the rise of neoliberalism. The central problem with which we are confronted today, in other words, may be less the conflict between labor and capital, and more, as Margaret Thatcher put it, the antagonism between a privileged “underclass” with its “dependency culture” and an “active” proletariat whose taxes pay for a system of “entitlements” and “handouts.”2

During this same period, in France, André Gorz published his Farewell to the Working Class—a book in which he argued that the “society of unemployment” would henceforth be divided into two camps: “a growing mass of the permanently unemployed” on one side, “an aristocracy of tenured workers” on the other, and, lodged between the two, “a proletariat of temporary workers.”3 Far from constituting the very motor of social change, the “traditional working class” had become little more than a “privileged minority.”4 From now on, the vanguard of the class struggle would be a “non-class” made up of the “unemployed” and “the temporary workers” for whom work would never be a “source of individual flourishing.” Gorz’s idea was that, in today’s world, class conflict is no longer between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, but rather, between the lumpenproletariat and a working class no longer at odds with the class system.

The fact that this logic—redefining the social question as a conflict between two factions of the proletariat rather than between capital and labor—can today be found on the left as well as the right, raises a number of question. On one side, it aims at limiting the social rights of the “surplus population”5 by pitting “active” workers against them; on the other side, it aims at mobilizing the “surplus population” against the privilege of the “actives.” In the end, both sides end up accepting, to the detriment of all “workers,” the centrality of the category of the “excluded.”

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Repossted with permission from: Nonsite.org

The Guardians: Tamara Natalie Madden

In art, culture, North America, visual arts on October 21, 2013 at 05:13

From: The Guardians by Karolle Rabarison: Interview with Tamara Natalie Madden, The Morning News, www.themorningnews.org

Jamaican-born Tamara Natalie Madden is a painter, writer, and photographer based in Atlanta. Her work has appeared in outlets such as the New York Times, the Jamaican Gleaner, and Upscale Magazine. Her paintings are in the permanent collections of Vanderbilt University and London’s Bridgeman Art Library.
The Morning News:

KEEPEROFILLUSIONSTMNLike you, I emigrated to the States at a young age, and people often ask if I feel more attached to—or more a part of—one country’s culture over the other’s. To which country, Jamaica or the U.S., do you feel you most belong?

Tamara Natalie Madden:

I feel 100% connected to Jamaica. I was not embraced when I came to America and had difficulty adjusting. I faced culture shock and a battle to maintain my identity. As a young child, I did not have a choice in coming to America, so I kept Jamaica in the safest place that I knew—my heart. Over the years, I have developed many solid relationships with people in America, some that I couldn’t do without, but I am inherently connected to my country and my people, and no matter where I live or how long I have been gone, I am very proud to call Jamaica home.


See the art and read the interview

Reposted with permission from: The Morning News

Every Day We Put the State on Trial by Ai Weiwei

In art, Asia, culture, government, human rights, internet, technology on October 21, 2013 at 05:01

From: Every Day We Put the State on Trial by Ai Weiwei, Policy Innovations, http://www.policyinnovations.org

For ages, artists have asked difficult questions about the human condition. It is their privilege to pursue such questions without needing to yield practical results. As individuals, and as a society, we can never really say we know everything. Society allows artists to explore what we don’t know in ways that are distinct from the approaches of science, religion, and philosophy. As a result, art bears a unique responsibility in the search for truth.
Art is a social practice that helps people to locate their truth. The truth itself, or the so-called truth presented by the media, has limitations. Manipulation of the truth does not lead to a lack of truth—it’s worse than no truth. Manipulated truths help the powerful, or advance the positions of the people who publicize them. So the arts and journalistic media play completely different roles.
I think it is important for artists to see themselves as privileged, and to bear some responsibility, because their job is about communication and expression. These are the core values of life, of being individuals. Most people don’t realize that they have to fight for this, but for us artists it’s necessary.

With 140 Chinese characters on Twitter, you can write a short story or novel. It’s not like in English, where you only have room for one question or piece of information. So we’re very privileged. But at the same time, I have been censored countless times for blogging on Sina Weibo, sharing my opinions, and publishing the names and stories of children killed during the Sichuan earthquake. The authorities delete my sentences. When they find that I’m writing too much, they shut off my IP. So I have to use another one and write under another user name. Sometimes in one month I have to use a hundred different IP addresses. Still, whatever I do, they’ll try to recognize me from the way I talk and the name I take—variations on my name like “Ai Weiwei,” “Ai Wei,” “Ai” and so on.

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Reposted with permission from: Policy Innovations

The Past is What Matters by Edan Lepucki

In books, literature, review, society, writers on October 13, 2013 at 18:37

From: The Past is What Matters: On Margaret Atwood’s Vision of the Future by Edan Lepucki, The Millions, http://www.themillions.com

I still recall the day I started The Handmaid’s Tale. It swept me away even as I underlined sentence after sentence, convinced that the narrator’s musings on language and storytelling would be discussed later in class. ”My self is a thing I must now compose as one composes a speech,” Offred narrates early on. “What I must present is a made thing, not something born.” I haven’t since found another book that captures as well as Atwood’s does the power of language and storytelling, how our identities are made and unmade by narrative.

That first time, I read for hours: on my narrow bed, and then on the floor, in the middle of my dorm room. Later that same evening, or maybe the next, I read some of the book aloud to my roommate, who kept falling asleep as I did so. Every few minutes, she’d wake up and describe to me her dreamscape, altered by Atwood’s descriptions. ”Keep going,” she’d say and close her eyes again.

(Years later, I would dream that I was Offred, trapped on a large cruise ship, trying to escape some unseen threat. The memory of those dark, wood-paneled hallways, and my robe and wimple, still gives me the chills.)

I’ve since returned to The Handmaid’s Tale three more times, and on each read, it astonishes me. I love the novel’s insistence on back story, on Offred’s need to conjure a time when she still had her old identity, her “shining name,” when she and her best friend Moira were allowed to go to college, and smoke cigarettes, and make tasteless jokes (“It sounds like a dessert. Date rapé“). The novel imagines America as a totalitarian Christian state that has stripped the rights of women, and although it does so vividly and powerfully, the dystopian premise is never central to my reading experience. I always fixate instead on Offred’s language play, and on the way she comprehends herself — and her female body — in this new world. Stories pass the time, yes, but they’re also a lifeline to the past, and they allow Offred to function in this terrible new world: ”One detaches oneself,” she narrates, “one describes.”

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Reposted according to copyright notice from: The Millions website

The Death of Romance in the Shadow of the Colossus by Jesse Miksic

In anthropology, art, history, mythology, technology, visual arts on October 13, 2013 at 18:05

From: The Death of Romance in the Shadow of the Colossus by Jesse Miksic, Berfrois, http://www.berfrois.com

Myths have no life of their own. They wait for us to give them flesh. If one man in the world answers their call, they give us their strength in all its fullness. We must preserve this myth, and ensure that its slumber is not mortal so that its resurrection is possible. (Albert Camus, Prometheus in the Underworld, 1947)

We are drowning in myths.

Of course, I don’t mean myths like primitive folk stories transcribed in anthropology textbooks, transmitted in a way that no shaman could have foreseen. Those myths are under glass, specimens preserved for our edification and amusement. Some commentators – like the great Claude Levi-Strauss – didn’t bother acknowledging any other definition of the term.

I’m talking about myths in a more general sense… myths as stories that tie our random, noisy, contingent lives into meaningful narratives. These myths may serve as articles of faith, or as aspirations codified into archetypes, or as warnings to those who would repeat our half-remembered mistakes. I’m talking about myths as the semantic sinew connecting our individual identities with our groaning, patchwork collective consciousness.

This is an essay about how a particular video game – an acclaimed 2005 adventure game called Shadow of the Colossus – unmistakably echoes Romanticism (specifically, German Romanticism and its related movements). Quite a bit of second-hand research has gone into this analysis, and I’m ecstatic about the results, but the whole mess would have very little meaning if I wasn’t talking about something bigger than a particular reading of a particular game, according to this particular player at this particular moment.

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Reposted with permission from: Berfrois

Europe’s Policies make Sense only on one Assumption by Noam Chomsky

In economy, Europe, politics, society on October 13, 2013 at 17:50

From: Europe’s Policies make Sense only on one Assumption: That the Goal is to unravel the Welfare State by Noam Chomsky, Social Europe Journal, http://www.social-europe.eu

What do you think the use of technocratic governments in Europe says about European democracy?

There are two problems with it. First of all it shouldn’t happen, at least if anybody believes in democracy. Secondly, the policies that they’re following are just driving Europe into deeper and deeper problems. The idea of imposing austerity during a recession makes no sense whatsoever. There are problems, especially in the southern European countries, but in Greece the problems are not alleviated by compelling the country to reduce its growth because the debt relative to GDP simply increases, and that’s what the policies have been doing. In the case of Spain, which is a different case, the country was actually doing quite well up until the crash: it had a budget surplus. There were problems, but they were problems caused by banks, not by the government, including German banks, who were lending in the style of their US counterparts (subprime mortgages). So the financial system crashed and then austerity was imposed on Spain, which is the worst policy. It increases unemployment, it reduces growth; it does bail out banks and investors, but that shouldn’t be the prime concern.

Europe’s policies make sense only on one assumption: that the goal is to try and undermine and unravel the welfare state. And that’s almost been said. Mario Draghi, the President of the European Central Bank, had an interview with the Wall Street Journal where he said that the social contract in Europe is dead. He wasn’t advocating it, he was describing it, but that’s essentially what the policies lead to. Perhaps not ‘dead’, that’s an exaggeration, but under attack.

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Reposted according to copyright notice from: Social Europe Journal website

Bruno Latour’s Gifford Lectures

In political science, religion, society, sociology, theory, writers on October 5, 2013 at 01:43

From: Bruno Latour’s Gifford Lectures: “Facing Gaia. A New Inquiry into Natural Religion”, Figure / Ground Communication, http://figureground.ca

Watch the lectures

Read full PDF of  Facing Gaia

“Bruno Latour is Professor at Sciences Po Paris and has also been Professor at the Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines in Paris and visiting Professor at University of California (San Diego), at the London School of Economics and Harvard University.

After field studies in Africa and California he specialized in the analysis of scientists and engineers at work. In addition to work in philosophy, history, sociology and anthropology of science, he has collaborated on many studies in science policy and research management, producing significant works such as Laboratory Life, Science in Action, The Pasteurization of France, and more recently Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor Network Theory.

He has also published an anthology of essays, Pandora’s Hope: Essays in the Reality of Science Studies, which explore the consequences of the “science wars” and has made a valuable contribution to the political philosophy of the environment with the book Politics of Nature. In a further series of books, he has explored the consequences of science studies on religion in On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods and Rejoice (the latter to be published by Polity Press).

There could be no better theme for a lecture series on natural religion than that of Gaia, this puzzling figure that has emerged recently in public discourse from Earth science as well as from many activist and spiritual movements. The problem is that the expression of ”natural religion” is somewhat of a pleonasm, since Western definitions of nature borrow so much from theology. The set of lectures attempts to decipher the face of Gaia in order to redistribute the notions that have been packed too tightly into the composite notion of ”natural religion”.”

Reposted with permission from: Figure / Ground Communication

Thoreau’s Wild Fruits by Frances Richard

In biology, literature, nature, writers on October 5, 2013 at 01:30

From: Thoreau’s Wild Fruits by Frances Richard, Cabinet Magazine, http://cabinetmagazine.org

He was deep in a writing project he called Wild Fruits, which he envisioned as nothing less than a handbook of practical woodcraft seamlessly woven into an ars poetica of New England nature—at once a scientifically accurate study of fruiting and forestry in the North Atlantic states, and a soaring though acerbic celebration of the ecological interdependences that link plants to humans, animals, weather patterns, and topography. Thoreau the serious amateur naturalist builds a scaffold inside his hat for carrying home freshly picked specimens, makes bold to taste choke cherries and spotted water-hemlock, and notes the days in consecutive years when muskmelon, fever bush, or bayberry bloom, ripen, wither, and freeze. In his pastoral-hermit guise, he squats down to watch white-pine cones dry and open, measures the tubers of wild artichokes, and draws blown cattails and the seedpods of Asclepias cornuti in his diary. As a polemicist, however, he remains acutely aware that his compatriots are busy building railroads, harvesting old-growth timber, and arguing the legality of slavery in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. He intends his precise botanical observations to refract the moral and aesthetic life of a swiftly modernizing capitalist nation embroiled in civil war, and he seems to know that he is speaking for the conservation of undespoiled lands near a point of no return. Wild Fruits thus emerges as a kind of hands-on record of the motions of the spirit that Emerson called the “Over-Soul.” A journal of ecstatic union with the lilies of the field, the book never ceases to inquire into the biological and cultural processes whereby those lilies—or sassafras roots, nightshade berries, whortleberries, and wild grapes—are germinated, mulched, garnered by squirrels, pecked by birds, marked by rot, appreciated (or not) by farmers, sold (or not) at market, and represented in history. Thoreau’s voice in Wild Fruits, as elsewhere, can turn 
sarcastic—cranberries, he remarks grumpily, “cut the 
winter’s phlegm, and now you can swallow another year 
of this world without other sauce”6—or slides toward the 
different-drummer cadences of Walden—“If you would really take a position outside the street and daily life of men, you must have deliberately planned your course, you must have business which is not your neighbors’ business, which they cannot understand.”7 Like Emerson, he revels in cross-
referenced reading of historical sources, ranging knowledgeably from Pliny to Manasseh Cutler’s “An Account of Some of the Vegetable Productions, Naturally Growing in This Part of America, Botanically Arranged,” published in 1785. He also writes, approvingly, of Darwin. But the lonely ferocity of his earlier years has distilled to something less hotly personal, and he privileges, as kindred spirits, distinctly unlofty sources—elderly Penobscot Indians, housewives, schoolboys. Conspicuously avoiding Christian piety, he refers to Mother Nature as the “midwife”8 of uncultivated growth, and quotes delightedly the battered farmer “who always selects the right word,” when he says that wild apples “have a kind of bow-arrow tang.”9

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Reposted with permission from: Cabinet Magazine

Your Body, Their Property by Osagie K. Obasogie

In biology, ethics, law, medicine, science, technology on October 5, 2013 at 01:19

From: Your Body, Their Property by Osagie K. Obasogie, Boston Review, http://www.bostonreview.net

An important example of this can be seen in the litigation surrounding John Moore’s spleen. Moore was a Seattle businessman who suffered from hairy cell leukemia, a rare cancer that caused his spleen to grow to fourteen times its normal size. Moore first traveled to UCLA Medical Center in 1976 for treatment, where Dr. David Golde told him that he should have his spleen removed. Moore complied and returned to UCLA for follow-up examinations with Golde for several years after the surgery. During the visits he routinely gave blood, skin, and other biological materials. Moore was told that these return visits and sample withdrawals were a necessary part of his ongoing treatment. What he was not told, however, was that Golde and the university were cashing in.

Researchers quickly realized that Moore’s cells were unique. The scientists took portions of Moore’s spleen to distill a specialized cell line—affectionately called “Mo”—and found that the cells could be useful in treating various diseases. Golde, researcher Shirley Quan, and UCLA were assigned a patent for the cell line in 1984. At the time, analysts estimated that the market for treatments stemming from Moore’s spleen was worth roughly $3 billion. Golde worked with a private company and received stock options worth millions, and UCLA also received hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside funding. Moore, whose spleen made all of this possible, received no compensation.

Moore sued the researchers and UCLA, claiming not only that they deceived him for their own financial benefit, but also that he was entitled to a portion of the revenues stemming from the Mo cell line because his property—his spleen and other biological materials—was taken from him and commercialized without his consent. In 1990 the California Supreme Court found that Golde and UCLA did not fulfill their disclosure obligations. Yet Moore was not owed a penny since the Court found that he no longer had a property interest in his own spleen once it was removed and used for research.

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Reposted with permission from: Boston Review

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