The Medical Net: Patients, Psychiatrists And Paper Trails In The Kashmir Valley

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This dissertation examines psychosocial interventions as specific social, political, medical, and ontological formations in the Kashmir valley. Till recently, medical humanitarianism was dominated by short-term, surgical interventions that focused on providing emergency biomedical care. In recent years, however, humanitarian organizations have increasingly focused on mental health interventions, particularly in places marked by low-intensity, long-term conflict, such as Kashmir. This dissertation traces the indeterminacies that have arisen as the outcome and effects of humanitarian work have shifted away from questions of life and death to the terrain of psychosocial wellbeing. Specifically, it argues that while humanitarianism is constituted by new subjects and objects of knowledge-such as psychiatrists, counselors, PTSD, and trauma therapies-it is also made up by less visible moments of (mis)translation, (mis)apprehension, and doubt. As such, I argue that medical humanitarianism takes the form of a "net" (jal), an object that is constituted by both its visible nodes and threads, as well as by "gaps" in between. Taking its inspiration from feminist science studies, the dissertation enacts the form of the net by moving from a focus on the visible nodes, that is, asylum and experts, to the threads that move between the clinic and the outside, namely medical cards and pills, to finally, the "gaps" in the net, that is, love stories. ! iii The "politics of visibility" that marks humanitarian practice is also replicated within the anthropology of humanitarianism. Anthropology has traditionally approached humanitarianism as providing the gift of life-in the form of citizenship, asylum, or legal residency-for victims of violence. Yet organizations that focus on psychosocial suffering do not hold out the promise of life as much as they provide limited techniques for living with suffering. Far from universally embraced, this latter gift raises questions about the worthiness of humanitarian endeavors in places of long-term suffering. This dissertation thus goes beyond a focus on humanitarianism as a "politics of life" to an ethnographically rich account of the everyday contestations and misapprehensions that characterize humanitarianism in a zone of political stagnation. ! iv

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Trauma; Humanitarianism; Kashmir


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Union Local


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Riles, Annelise

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Langwick, Stacey A.
Ghosh, Durba
Ramberg, Lucinda E.G.

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Ph. D., Anthropology

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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