Digesting modernity : body, illness and medicine in Kolkata (Calcutta)
This Ph.D. thesis presents an anthropological perspective on popular and professional concepts of the body in Kolkata (Calcutta), with special reference to ideas about the stomach/belly and the digestive system. By altering the routines and practices of daily life, changes brought about by modernization, globalization and urbanization are often associated with a decline of mental and physical well-being. In this context, the aim of this study is to juxtapose popular practices of self-care with professional views on illness and medicine. How do people in Kolkata perceive their bodies. How do they speak about health problems linked to digestion. What are the perceptions of health and illness among different medical professionals. How does this discourse reflect anxieties about the consequences of modernity in Kolkata. The data of this study are drawn from ethnographic fieldwork carried out between July 1999 and December 2000. Interviews and participant observation were conducted with a cross-section of the Bengali Hindu population in a local area in South-West Kolkata, and in selected other areas of the city. Data collection focused on metaphors around stomach/belly (Bengali: pet), and on popular practices of self-care in relation to bodily well-being. For research on professional medicine, interviews and participant observation were carried out with healers from thee different medical systems: allopathy (biomedicine), homeopathy, and Ayurveda. From each of these systems, fifteen to twenty healers were interviewed on how they perceive their patients, and how these perceptions influence their medical practice.