The Future of Immortality: Remaking Life and Death in Contemporary Russia

Date: 

Nov 20, 2019, 6:00 pm

Location: 

Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
Anya Bernstein

Public Lecture & Book Signing

Anya Bernstein
John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University

The international transhumanist movement believes that humans can harness science and technology to transcend their physical and mental limitations. Some of its practitioners support cryonics and the creation of robotic bodies for future “consciousness transfer.” Drawing from her ethnographic work among Russian transhumanists and her recent book—The Future of Immortality (Princeton University Press, 2019)—Anya Bernstein will discuss the religious and philosophical roots of transhumanism in Russia dating back to the nineteenth century. She will also explore the current debates within the movement over immortality and what it means to be human.

Free and open to the public. Presented by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology.

Free event parking at the 52 Oxford Street Garage

Harvard anthropologist Anya Bernstein has published widely on the topics of religion, secularism, and art and censorship in contemporary Russia. She has also published on the battles over religious relics, end-of-life care issues, and the politics of shamanic tourism in Russia. Her first book, Religious Bodies Politic: Rituals of Sovereignty in Buryat Buddhism (University of Chicago Press 2013), explores the transformation of Buddhist practice among a Siberian indigenous people known as Buryats. Her second book, The Future of Immortality: Remaking Life and Death in Contemporary Russia (Princeton University 2019) explores how, from the mid-nineteenth century onward in Russia, the Soviet Union, and now the Russian Federation, an uncommonly wide range of actors has pursued the dream of achieving human immortality. 

As a visual anthropologist Bernstein has directed, filmed, and produced several award-winning documentary films on Buryat Buddhism and shamanism, including Join Me in Shambhala (2002) and In Pursuit of the Siberian Shaman (2006). Her articles have been published in American EthnologistAmerican AnthropologistCultural AnthropologyComparative Studies in Society and HistoryPublic CultureCritical InquiryAnthropology TodayAb ImperioInner AsiaSibirica: Journal for Siberian Studies, and Mongolian Studies. Bernstein holds a B.S. in Linguistics from Georgetown University, an M.A. in Visual Anthropology from the University of Manchester, England, and a Ph.D in Anthropology from New York University.

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