Affliction inaugurates a novel way of understanding the trajectories of health and disease in the context of poverty. Shifting the focus from the encounter between patient and practitioner within the space of the clinic, it privileges the networks of relations, institutions, and knowledge over which the experience of illness is dispersed.
Based on a long period of immersion in low-income neighborhoods in Delhi, Veena Das asks who is the subject of illness? How do different kind of healers understand their own practice? Documenting the astonishing range of practitioners found in the local markets in the poor neighborhoods of Delhi the book interrogates how the magical and the technical are knotted together in the therapeutic experience of healers and patients. What is expert knowledge? And how can we retain an openness to different disciplinary orientations to health, disease, and poverty while also critiquing the practices of global health, state policies, and markets in health care?
Affliction is the term Das gives to the experience of everyday forms of suffering that are routine and cruddy rather than spectacular and dramatic. Attentive to the way illness produces the braiding of care and violence, the book shows how illness is absorbed in everyday life even as it erodes it. Das demonstrates with great delicacy and tact the fragility of the real and the ordinary realism with which the poor navigate their milieu.
This book will be of interest to anthropologists, sociologists, public health researchers, students of philosophy and literary theory.
Affliction: An Introduction
1. How the Body Speaks2. A Child Learns Illness and Learns Death3. Mental Illness, Psychiatric Institutions, and the Singularity of Lives4. Dangerous Liaisons: Technology, Kinship, and Wild Spirits 5. The Reluctant Healer and the Darkness of our Times6. Medicines, Markets, and Healing7. Global Health Discourse and the View from Planet EarthConclusion: Thoughts for the Day after Tomorrow
Veena Das is Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology and Professor of Humanities at Johns Hopkins University.