Friday, February 12, 2010

The New Anthropologist and Johnny Lever's Hospital

On February 1st, I joined a UCL-BALM research unit in Chennai as a research assistant studying stigma and mental health. This transition is an exciting one for me, since it marks the beginning of my work as an anthropologist. In the introduction of his book Global Health, Mark Nichter, a public health anthropologist who has worked extensively in Tamil Nadu writes about the problems of translating his profession into Tamil and solves this difficultly by calling his discipline 'anubhav shashtra', the 'science of experience'. This is very close to my own idea of what an anthropologist does. I aim to transition from a clinician who is an expert at experiencing patients to a hospital ethnographer who is an expert in experiencing clinicians and clinical care. I hope to look critically at how knowledge and understanding is created in the clinic by different members who inhabit it. I especially hope to explore how non-English speaking patients construct an understanding of 'English Medicine'. All this will involve me look at intimately familiar environments with a fresh eye and I start this endeavor with a reference to someone else who seems to have wonderfully fresh take on the Indian hospital. Presenting the comic genius of Johnny Lever.

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