Attending to the Dark Side of Medicine

Decades of medical anthropological work have helped disrupt notions of biomedicine’s soteriological basis, its unquestioning moral rightness, and its fundamental commitment of doing no harm. In our cross-border research on public health systems in Indian and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, respectively—two of the most militarized places on earth—we try to trouble and even undo the assumed good or neutrality of medicine by evaluating its darker, shadow side. As medical anthropologists, we are interested in how long-term conflict leaves traces in public health infrastructures, and how medicine’s soteriological foundations are manipulated, twisted, or mangled in everyday clinical practices, such that the lines between practice and malpractice can become exceptionally blurred.

Sharing, Wasting, and Tasting in Our Mother Tongue

When I began my fieldwork on sanitation work in Bangalore, India, the city had already suffered two decades of class polarization and environmental degradation, after being marked as a site for low-cost solutions, back-end support, and offshore expansion. So, I should have suspected that the paradoxes of progress would leave me tongue-tied: lost in my mother tongue (Kannada), along with everyone else’s.