AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 527

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Session 527: Health, Technologies and Therapies

Paranoia, Social Suffering and Subjectivity
Lii Shu-chung, Independent Scholar, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

Through a close reading of a patient diagnosed as persecutory delusion, this study aims to manifest how the personal psychopathology and macro socio-cultural and historical processes are mutually constructing and representing each other. Based on recent rethinking of mental symptoms in theory, this study explores the interconnection between social suffering and subjectivity by scrutinizing the patient’s narratives of persecution, and reveals how various positions of suffering subjectivity conditioned by the patient’s gender, ethnicity, class, ideology, and culture could confluence in a form of mental symptom, persecutory delusion. A personal psychopathology, through an analysis like this, could also imply some alternatives to the official accounts of social politics and history in rural Taiwan, and provide witness to the impacting forces of economic globalization, like WTO, on local lives. At last but not least, this study reflects on the important conceptualizations in medical anthropology, such as social sufferings, subjectivity and psychopathology, and also on the presumed interrelations between them.

Making therapies in the wellness industry
Laurent Pordie, CNRS, France

This paper will examine the multilayered influences and composite nature of a set of healing practices widely found in the health tourism industry in India. These practices are claimed to be Indian, but remain largely inspired by the global wellness industry and further shaped by the needs and desires of managers, therapists and patients altogether. Here, imagination as a local social practice is not only affected by the desires of those at great social, cultural, and geographic distance, as globalization theory would have it, but also by repeated contacts, discussions and bodily interactions among individuals across the borders of nation-states. That is to say, transnationalism plays an instrumental role in shaping healing practices. I will argue that health tourism is both being produced by, and creating transnational spaces – in the form of spas –, in which people from various cultural backgrounds contribute to the creation of new therapies. To this end, I will present an ethnography conducted in a national chain of high class, standardized spas which became renowned after it won, perhaps ironically, a prominent National Innovation Award for “reviving the ancient knowledge of India”. The transcultural encounters brought about by transnational healthcare introduce creative invention into existence. What is the meaning of innovation for a company which makes use of various world resources while claiming its Indian-ness? How does transnationalism create cultural products and how is the idea of “culture” associated to therapeutic practice in this context?

Status of Human Health in the Hill Districts of Gujarat, India
Vijayata Rajaram, Independent Scholar, India

Health is the most important indicator of development. An attempt would be made in the paper to analyse the status of health among the population living in the eastern hilly areas of Gujarat. For the purpose, a few sample villages of Kawant taluka of Vadodara district of the State will be studied. The terrain of the study area is hilly, undulating with a moderate to warm climate. The status of health among the target population would be analysed in the context of both physical and cultural environment of the area, which includes physiography, housing condition, awareness, access to productive assets and a host of social parameters. The study would be based on both secondary and primary sources of data. Primary data would be generated at household level using structured schedules, randomly administered in the study villages. The study is expected to make significant revelations pertaining to the association of human health with different elements of the human milieu.

'Happy' Patients, Civic Organizations, and the Global Pharmaceutical Market
Eunjeong Ma, Pohang University of Science and Technology, South Korea

This paper examines the role of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) with respect to transnational pharmaceutical corporations in South Korea. It is based on about a year-long ethnographic work on patients’ rights advocacy groups and professional organizations concerned with fair and equitable access to drugs. With focus on an anti-cancer drug developed and marketed by a Swiss-based pharmaceutical company, Novartis, the paper explores the ways in which NGOs contest the global flow of patented drugs regulated by the multinational trade order and suggest alternative ways of assessing and articulating civic justice in the global age. In 2001, Novartis Korea tried to put an innovative cancer treatment on the market by registering it with the government authorities for insurance coverage. In the process, Novartis Korea and the Korean government disagreed on the appropriate price of the drug. Novartis’s drug pricing policy was based on the universality of the global market, against which the Koran government was strongly opposed. Korea NGOs contended that Novartis’s universal drug price hindered local citizens from accessing the drug. They asserted that multinational pharmaceutical companies should take co-responsibility to promote the lives of global citizens instead of protecting interests of corporations. To make their voices heard, they not only tried to network with activists beyond the national border, but imported alternative cancer drugs with similar efficacy as that of Novartis from Indian pharmaceutical companies. Thus, this paper follows through the performative actions of Korea NGOs and discusses public health policy implications associated with the circulation of technological advancements.

Does Economic Welfare Matter in Preventive Health Care in Rural India? A Multilevel Analysis
Avishek Hazra, Independent Scholar, India

Deficient economic welfare remains as one of the most powerful barriers towards utilization of healthcare. This paper examines the degree of inequality in utilization of maternal and child healthcare services in rural India, based on a nationally representative District Level Household Survey data. Focus is on preventive aspects, mainly because of the thrust of National Rural Health Mission launched by the government, along the lines of MDGs on reducing inequalities in access to and utilization of healthcare. Since much of maternal and child deaths during initial years of life can be successfully prevented by proper antenatal care, safe delivery practices and proper immunization of children against vaccine-preventable diseases, presence of significant inequalities in these domains can have far-reaching consequences. Using multilevel analysis, possible effects of community, household and individual level variables on utilization of preventive healthcare have been examined. To capture the extent of inequality, Gini coefficient has been calculated. Findings reveal that economic well-being of household to which women or children belong, plays crucial role in explaining variation in service utilization. There is concentration of women deprived to take adequate maternal care amongst the poorest wealth quintile. Inequality in utilization is found to be more pronounced for between groups compared to within wealth quintiles. Therefore, factors that can be easily influenced like improved access to facilities, through both supply side initiatives as well as generating social awareness regarding importance of preventive care, and affordability of households towards usage of these services needs to be stressed upon in national policies.

Technologies in Circulation: Assisted Reproduction in India
Sandra Baernreuther, University of Heidelberg, Germany

Assisted reproductive technologies and procedures today circulate the world. In India a vast number of fertility clinics offers treatments like IUI (Intra Uterine Insemination), IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), or ICSI (Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection). Anthropology and Science and Technology Studies have demonstrated that technologies lack the neutral and objective nature commonly attributed to them, but are always co-produced with society. In this sense, this paper will explore the socio-cultural dynamics resulting from the travels of reproductive technologies by examining how – instead of being merely adopted from the ‘West’ – assisted reproductive technologies are negotiated and applied in unique ways in fertility clinics in India. It will answer the following, intertwined questions: In what ways are technologies transformed by socio-cultural contexts and, reciprocally, what role do they play in shaping these social formations. How are assisted reproductive technologies and related concepts and practices appropriated, re-interpreted or rejected? And how do they impinge on notions of infertility, local biologies, subjectivities, and moralities?