Society for Medical Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Precarity is a fundamental feature of the urban poor in today’s complex and changing urban landscapes (Das and Randeria 2015). This precarity is also part of the lives of those disabled by Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs), among whom public health studies have shown high rates of poverty, social isolation, and homelessness (Lafferty 2010, Oddy et al 2012). In light of this, I argue that the precarity inherent in survivors’ daily lives is much more than a bodily matter. Living with a TBI is a fundamentally social condition, as survivors’ lives and well-being often intertwine with and depend on the interactions and relations that they have with others. Based on ethnographic research with an emergent and shifting community of TBI survivors in the rapidly changing urban landscape of Seattle, Washington I explore how social interactions and relations constitute a large part of what it means to live with the lifelong injury. These interactions can either minimize or heighten the precarity in survivors’ lives, even after completing rehabilitation intended to “improve their independence” (CDC 2015). Several informants asserted that, in response to their injuries and impairments, families and friends abandoned them or otherwise failed to help them when asked. This included help with quotidian tasks of paying bills, buying groceries, and keeping track of medical and other vital appointments. Without this assistance, such matters could “fall through the cracks” of survivors’ already complex daily lives, enhancing the precarity they face and helping to explain the prevalence of social problems in their community.