Dr. Monir Moniruzzaman first became interested in Anthropology during his undergraduate studies in Bangladesh at Jahangirnagar University. He finished his undergraduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology and stayed another year at the university to complete a Masters in Anthropology. He then taught Anthropology at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology for three years. In 2000, he left for Canada to continue his graduate education. He received his Master of Arts from University of Western Ontario in 2003 and his PhD from University of Toronto in 2010.
It was during his studies in Canada that Dr. Moniruzzaman developed his current research interests on human organ trafficking in Bangladesh. For his Masters he examined how organ transplant raises serious ethical questions, as spare body parts become commoditized through new technology. His PhD was focused on exploring the underworld of kidney trafficking from living donors in Bangladesh. Due to the fact that the entire process and trade is illegal, fieldwork was extremely difficult. The act of selling organs is also socially stigmatized, making it more difficult to locate the sellers and talk to them about their experiences. Dr. Moniruzzaman learned to navigate these difficulties, but it was a highly challenging and risky process.
Dr. Moniruzzaman’s PhD research revealed the processes and experiences of kidney sellers in Bangladesh. He concluded that organ trafficking is utterly unethical: organ extraction is a form of violence and exploitation of the poor, imposing a terrible cost of harm and suffering. His research offers insight into bioethics and broadens debates on human rights, by examining the exploitation of the poor population,violence against their bodies, and suffering of their embodied selves, all of which generate a novel form of bodily inequality. His last fieldwork was in 2013, consisting of interviews with a liver seller (who sold part of his liver), his recipient, liver specialists and organ brokers to examine the emerging liver trafficking in Bangladesh and beyond.
Dr. Moniruzzaman’s work has been shared and published in a wide variety of formats and was even transformed into a successful art installation piece. He has been published in Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Journal of Social Studies, and several edited volumes. He has given testimonial on global organ trafficking to the US Congressional Human Rights Commission and the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. BBC, the Atlantic, ABC, NPR WKAR, and Discover Magazine have also featured his work and interviewed him. In 2012, MSU’s President Simon highlighted Dr. Moniruzzaman’s work as part of her annual report of the university, an honor for himself and the Department.
Dr. Moniruzzaman is planning to return to the field to continue his research on illegal organ trafficking. Currently, he is writing an article on liver organ trafficking in Bangladesh. He wants to continue examining broader bioethical questions based on the deeply moving narratives of organ sellers themselves.
[Included in the Spring 2014 Dept. of Anthropology Newsletter, see complete newsletter here]