Society for Medical Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Chronic illness disrupts, extends and structures subjectivities and patients’ sense of selves in time. Similarly, family events, relational quandaries, and ‘the accumulation of relations’ (Carsten 2013) mark subjectivities temporally. This paper examines how these seemingly distinct modalities of subjecthood temporalities compound, and how their overlap foregrounds experience of families and persons with diabetes in Delhi, India. It examines relational fragilities of everyday life with a chronic illness, and the ethics of care more generally. The moments of familial crises, disruptions and affirmations are also moments when ethics of care and illness are redefined, or come into question. A breakup of a joint family due to a feud regarding wealth, for instance, when a household splits and accusations arise, rearranges obligations of care, redefines suffering from illness and re-roots them in relationship to the disagreements. Such moments may blur and illuminate the categorical and analytical distinctions between a patient and a family member; a carer and the one who is cared for; caring for illness and caring for kin. This paper draws on ethnographic fieldwork among urban poor families in Delhi suffering from diabetes and follows familial relations in time and daily life to show that in the climates of scarcity, lack of quality medical care, and the increasing “burden” of chronic conditions, the struggle to care for and to survive an illness is also a struggle to live by time structure which is relational.