ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Anger at the Hospital


seth katyayni - Brown University, Anthropology, Providence, United States


15 – Hospitals in South Asia: Historical and Ethnographic Perspectives


¬†Healthcare providers and staff working in public hospitals in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) have a reputation for being rude to patients and their family members. These service providers are often described as uncaring, and at times feared for being deliberately careless. In popular parlance, the behavior of medical personnel is linked to the general disinterest of government workers to provide services in a timely and respectful manner, and to their indifference towards the difficult circumstances families can face when seeking care from the state. At the same time, physical violence against medical personnel and the destruction of property by the attendants of patients in both private and public medical facilities is often in local, state and national news. My research tries to understand the presence of violence in spaces of healing in western UP. In this paper, I study two such spaces in the city of Meerut–the pediatric ICU of a government medical college and the dargah of a Sunni saint–to examine how verbal and physical violence erupts and is absorbed into interactions between healers, patients and caregivers. Engaging with anthropological literature on the relationship between care and violence, I try to learn from instances in which violence can reveal an inability to care, and be sought after by patients and their families as proof of healing.