Anya Bernstein is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University. Her second book (forthcoming with Princeton University Press in 2019), titled The Future of Immortality: Remaking Life and Death in Contemporary Russia, explores the contemporary Russian communities of visionaries and utopians who are pressing at the very limits of the human.
“The Future of Immortality: Remaking Life and Death in Contemporary Russia”
Through practices such as cryonics and plans to build robotic bodies for future “consciousness transfer,” the Russian transhumanist movement has engendered competing practices of immortality as well as ontological debates over the immortal body and person. Drawing on an ethnography of these practices and plans, I explore controversies around religion and secularism within the movement as well as the growing disagreements between transhumanists and the Russian Orthodox Church. I argue that the core issues in debates over the role of religion vis-à-vis immortality derive from diverse assumptions being made about “the human,” which—from prerevolutionary esoteric futurist movements through the Soviet secularist project and into the present day—has been and remains a profoundly plastic project.