Saiba Varma

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, San Diego, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9373

Approve Date

October 7, 2016

Project Title

Varma, Dr. Saiba, U. of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA - To aid research on 'Occupied Health Systems: Medicine, Hospitals and Politics in Kashmir'

Preliminary abstract: The neutrality of medical professionals and health services is being compromised and politicized in conflict settings globally. While attacks on medical facilities are well documented, there is little social scientific research on how medical care is politicized on a day-to-day basis in conflict settings: how medical crises become events of political significance, for example, or how individuals living in conflict zones experience medical care as an extension of state violence. This project examines how, and under what conditions, gaps and crises in public health infrastructures become intertwined with larger social and political concerns in conflict zones, and to what effect. Against the backdrop of violence and occupation in Indian and Pakistan controlled Kashmir, this collaborative ethnographic project shows how patients and other actors contest the state’s purported, often failed goal of healing subjugated populations. By drawing together political and medical anthropology in examining health care and health infrastructures as moral, affective and political institutions, our research explores how diverse actors harness incidents of medical neglect or malpractice in state health systems to galvanize political action and resistance. How are illness, injury and suffering understood to have political causes and significance, and how do they underpin the making of occupied subjectivities? How do patients and providers experience hospitals and everyday therapeutic encounters as socially, politically and morally fraught? By foregrounding health infrastructures as critical sites of social and political crisis, our project reveals the subtle, indirect outcomes of violence and, in so doing, sheds light on the precarious nature of state care for those who need it most.