South Asia

Organized Panel Session

4 - Public Health Epidemic and Failure of the State: Collective Psyche and Communitas in India

Friday, July 6
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Marigold, New Building

This paper addresses the ongoing substance abuse (Heroin) epidemic amongst men aged 13 and above belonging to all social classes in the Jammu city, Jammu and Kashmir, India. A two-fold approach to the epidemic is applied. On the one hand, an epidemic is understood as a socially manifested rupture of the collective psyche and on the other hand, an epidemic is viewed as a breakdown of the state machinery and a failure of public health efforts. Using the interviews with mental health professionals, de-addiction counselors and young adults, the paper trace how an epidemic is a response by the collective to re-form the communitas, thereby, underscoring state’s failure in providing care for its sovereign. In this paper, epidemic is used as a trope to unpack how institutional and individual bodies engage in a struggle for recognition and/or visibility by the state and the nation. The focus will also be on understanding how bodies of young adults become sites of regional, cultural and national politics. Situating this moment of rupture in the broader historiography of Jammu and Kashmir the paper is an attempt to begin conversations about embodied histories of trauma and anxieties in a population ridden with deep feelings of discrimination and neglect. Besides discussing questions of belonging, the paper will have implications regarding everyday psychological health, elucidate regime of disciplinary power as exercised by the state health system and address the decline in the ethics of care as a form of life.

Sugandh Gupta

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, United States

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