I am thrilled to announce that my book, The Maintenance of Life: Preventing Social Death through Euthanasia Talk and End-of-Life Care – Lessons from The Netherlands,” (2009), was recently selected to receive the 2011 Margaret Mead Award from the Society for Applied Anthropology and the American Anthropological Association. The Margaret Mead Award is presented to a younger scholar for a particular accomplishment such as a book, film, monograph, or service, which interprets anthropological data and principles in ways that make them meaningful and accessible to a broadly concerned public – skills for which Margaret Mead was admired widely. Past recipients of the Margaret Mead Award have included Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Alex Stepick, Paul Farmer, Susan Scrimshaw, Philippe Bourgois, and Leo Chavez.
The Maintenance of Life is about what has developed in one present-day society to address social death and modern dying. It is based on a 15-month ethnographic study of home death in The Netherlands with general practitioners, end-of-life patients and their family members. The book develops from two important study findings: (1) that euthanasia in practice is predominantly a discussion, which only rarely culminates in a euthanasia death; and (2) that euthanasia talk in many ways serves a palliative function, staving off social death by providing participants with a venue for processing meaning, giving voice to suffering, and reaffirming social bonds and self-identity at the end of Dutch life. Ironically, those who engage in euthanasia talk often choose not to die by euthanasia and instead live longer lives as active participants engaged in Dutch social networks even at the end of life.
Thank you so much for the award and for supporting the book!