"Reading Affliction: Health, Disease, Poverty, is like observing a master at work. A formidable piece of scholarship immersed in over a decade of ethnographic engagement etched in stunningly crafted anthropological prose. This longitudinal immersion in the everyday lives of urban poor produces a tender and intimate account without lapsing into unwitting sentimentality. An ethnographic and theoretical tour de force!"--Aditya Bharadwaj, The Graduate Institute, GenevaVeena Das offers a complex ethnographic meditation on illness among the urban poor and the diverse kinds of response (practical, methodological, ethical) it invites. As Das so precisely attends to affliction, readers have the privilege of following one of anthropology's most distinctive and distinguished voices."--Michael Lambek, University of Toronto"Over four decades Veena Das has established herself as one of the most imaginative and sensitive writers to be found in any of the human sciences. In this brilliant book, she attends to the everyday work of care and endurance that makes up the life of the poor in Delhi. As ever, her ear is attuned to the fateful turn of phrase, the pause, the silence. But in this new volume she attends to other voices as well-[not only] the voices of health professionals and economists, struggling to put their understanding of the objective conditions that shape the experience of health and poverty to practical use but also the voices of fellow anthropologists wrestling with the limitations of their theoretical and descriptive language. Affliction is a work of great generosity and no little beauty. It is, if anything even more remarkable than its predecessors in Das's remarkable oeuvre."--Jonathan Spencer, University of Edinburgh"In this beautiful collection, Veena Das continues her quest into the minor events and enduring suffering, the mundane intensity of the present and remembrance of things past, which constitute ordinary human existence, thus opening a novel line of reflection and research in what can be called an anthropology of life."-Didier Fassin, author of Humanitarian Reason: A Moral History of the Present "Told with delicacy, vigour and a sharply criticial eye, this compelling account of the everyday events of illness in low income neighborhoods [in Delhi] shows what anthropological attentiveness can do. If its power comes from the evident power of the mind behind it, it also comes from a modestly understated account of how to be both in the company of people and a recorder of affliction. Above all, it is a work of exquisite attention to the incoherences and normalizations that disease makes of family circumstances, medical practices, state provisioning, singular lives, and that these make of it. Socially sensitive and world-alert at the same time, Das's narrative holds the reader in (gripping, edifying) suspense between its different planes. No less perhaps than one would expect from this author, but a model of social science writing all the same."--Marilyn Strathern, University of Cambridge"Veena Das' book, 'Affliction: Health, Disease, Poverty' provides an important, ethnographically powerful, laddering of scenes of instructions for us all." -SomatosphereVom Verlag:
Affliction: Health, Disease, Poverty inaugurates a novel way of understanding the trajectories of health and disease in the context of poverty. Focusing on low-income neighborhoods in Delhi, it stitches together three different sets of issues. It first examines the different trajectories of illness: What are the circumstances under which illness is absorbed within the normal and when does it exceed the normal putting resources, relationships, and even one's world into jeopardy? Parallel to the experience of illness within families and local communities, a second set of issues pertains to the way healers of different kinds understand their own practice. The astonishing range of practitioners found in the local markets in the poor neighborhoods of Delhi shows how the magical and the technical are knotted together in the therapeutic experience of both healers and patients. The book asks: What is expert knowledge? What is it that the practitioner knows and what does the patient know? How are these different forms of knowledge brought together in the clinical encounter, broadly defined? How does this event of everyday life bear the traces of larger policies at the national and global levels? Finally, the book interrogates the statistical models of disease prevalence and global programming that emphasize surveillance over care and attention to the specificities of local worlds. Yet the analysis offered retains an openness to different ways of conceptualizing "what is happening" and stimulates a conversation between different disciplinary orientations to health, disease and poverty. Most studies of health and disease privilege either the individual experience or the space of the clinic as somehow natural grounds on which such issues can be studied. This book privileges, instead, the networks of relations, institutions, and knowledge over which the illness experience is dispersed. Instead of thinking of illness as an event set apart from everyday life, it shows the texture of everyday life, the political economy of neighborhoods, and the dark side of care. It opens us to seeing how illness is bound by the contexts in which it occurs, but it also transcends these contexts to say something about the nature of everyday life and the making of subjects.
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