Freeze, die, come to life: The many paths to immortality in post-Soviet Russia

by Anya Bernstein

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By Anya BernsteinFull Article: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/amet.12169/full


(image:
http://americanethnologist.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/10/ae-bernstein-600px-300x209.jpg alt: Four bodies of the Avatar Project, which aims at achieving immortality through transferring consciousness into robotic bodies. The project is the vision of Dmitry Itskov, who runs the Moscow-based company Immortality. (Used with permission of the 2045 Initiative.)

Four bodies of the Avatar Project, which aims at achieving immortality through transferring consciousness into robotic bodies. The project is the vision of Dmitry Itskov, who runs the Moscow-based company Immortality. (Used with permission of the 2045 Initiative.)

) Four bodies of the Avatar Project, which aims at achieving immortality through transferring consciousness into robotic bodies. The project is the vision of Dmitry Itskov, who runs the Moscow-based company Immortality. (Used with permission of the 2045 Initiative.)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 conflict between transhumanists and the Russian Orthodox Church. I argue that the core issues in debates over the role of religion vis--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.