‘Takin’ It One Day at a Time’

(Not) Anticipating as Moral Project

in The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology
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  • 1 University of Texas at San Antonio devin.s.flaherty@gmail.com
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Abstract

In this article, I explore anticipation as a site of moral experience and moral willing when death may be nearby. Through an examination of the narratives of the wife of a hospice patient in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, I show that her commitment to not anticipate the course of her husband's illness is a moral project pitted against biomedical modes of prognostication. In a context in which hospice care is the only option available for many older adults in poor health, I discuss the incommensurability between this position and the anticipatory horizon on which hospice care is predicated: the patient's imminent death. I argue for an approach to this woman's experience that takes into account the tendency for temporal orientations to be thrown into flux when death might be nearby, without reducing her commitment to not anticipate to mere avoidance or ‘denial’.

Contributor Notes

Devin Flaherty is an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She studies care, ageing and end of life on the island of St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. Recent publications include ‘Facing Death: On Mourning, Empathy and Finitude’ (with C. Jason Throop), in Wiley's Companion to the Anthropology of Death (2018, A. C. G. M. Robben [ed.]), and ‘Between Living Well and Dying Well: Existential Ambivalence and Keeping Promises Alive’ (2018) in Death Studies.

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