Rinku Ashok Kumar

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Arizona, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10672

Approve Date

April 15, 2024

Project Title

Ashok Kumar, Rinku (Arizona, U. of) "Making the 'Indian microbiome': emergent vernaculars of biotech development, circulation, and use in Bengaluru"

In the current moment of heightened focus on “health” among middle-class Indians, and increased ethno-religious nationalism in India, biotech companies have started offering fecal sample-based gut microbiome testing services to urban Indians via mail. Test-takers then receive test results along with dietary recommendations for restoring their gut health over the Internet. This dissertation research examines the emergence of what has been called the “Indian microbiome” by investigating the development, circulation, and use of home-based microbiome testing. Through 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork based out of Bengaluru, this research explores discourses and practices involved in the making of the “Indian microbiome.” With the introduction of the gut microbiome test, the microbiome is emerging as a biomedical expert category in India. Unlike other disease-specific biomedical treatments, and due to their holistic approach to health, can gut microbiome test be seen as mimicking vernacular notions of gut health? Can it get scientized by ethno-nationalist discourse? Through a material-semiotic approach to analyzing the vernacularization of microbiome by test creators, test interpreters, and test-takers, this research contributes to the anthropology of microbes amidst the global shift toward precision medicine.