I am the Fred W. Shaffer Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Global Health. My research explores connections between the body, medicine, and urban environments in India.
My most recent work is a book project, entitled "Lifelines: The Traffic of Trauma," which is forthcoming from Duke University Press. Lifelines is an ethnographic study of road and railway injuries and of trauma surgery. Its aim is to understand injury and movement as problems that must be thought together, and argues that medicine itself must be understood in terms of movements. It is based on five years of ethnographic research on traffic accidents in Mumbai, primarily in the trauma ward of one of the city's largest public hospitals. Lifelines tracks traumatic injury as the accident moves through different domains: the conveyance of accidents to the hospital, triage, surgery, the involvement of families and police, intensive care, autopsy, and recovery after discharge. The research for Lifelines was supported by a CAREER Award (Faculty Early Career Development Program) from the National Science Foundation Cultural Anthropology Program.
Based on my research in the Mumbai trauma intensive care unit (ICU), and in the context of COVID-19, I am currently at work on a collaborative ethnography with colleagues in Critical Care at Duke Hospital and the School of Medicine. Funded by a National Science Foundation RAPID Award, our project, "RAPID: Healthcare Workforce Resilience in the Time of Covid-19," is an ethnographic study of conditions of adversity posed by COVID-19 to intensive care, and the creative responses ICU workers employ to adapt to them.
I also co-direct a collaborative project about the intersections between medicine and law, with the broader aim to develop the field of medicolegal anthropology. In line with that work, I have begun research for a new book about the domain of the medicolegal in India.
My first book is entitled Metabolic Living: Food, Fat, and the Absorption of Illness in India (Duke University Press, May 2016, read introduction here). As India becomes increasingly portrayed as the site of a shift from infectious to chronic disease burdens said to accompany economic development, my research explores the phenomenon of metabolism as an ethnographic, biomedical, and political rubric. With India's rising rates of obesity and diabetes as its backdrop, Metabolic Living examines relationships forged between food, fat, the body, and the city of Mumbai. The book draws on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Mumbai's home kitchens, metabolic disorder clinics, and food companies, to better understand what have been termed India's "diseases of prosperity."
My earlier projects examined the development of corporatized medical care in Indian cities and its manifestation as medical tourism, and the politics of language in India's HIV treatment clinical trials.
I situate both my research and teaching at the interdisciplinary intersections of medical anthropology, South Asian studies, science and technology studies, the medical humanities/social medicine, and global health. Prior to anthropology, I studied linguistics and public health, and worked on global reproductive health and HIV policy.