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L’hôpital en Asie du Sud

Clémence Jullien
Bertrand Lefebvre
Fabien Provost

Espaces hospitaliers : vers la complémentarité des soins ? / Hospital Spaces: Towards the Complementarity of Cares?

“It’s Partly in our Hands; It’s Partly in the Hands of the Goddess”

Cancer Patients’ Quest for Healing in South India

« C’est en partie entre nos mains ; c’est en partie dans les mains de la déesse ». Des malades du cancer en quête de guérison dans le sud de l'Inde

Cecilia Van Hollen, Shweta Krishnan y Shibani Rathnam


As the government and NGO public health campaigns in Tamil Nadu promote biomedical methods of cancer prevention and treatment as “modern” and “rational” approaches to cancer, localized notions that cancer is often a karmic punishment for an immoral act committed in the past or the physical manifestation of a kind of injustice that an adversary renders through the deliberate use of sorcery is being recast as a “backward” and “irrational way of thinking.” Yet women in Tamil Nadu continue to draw from both these ways of understanding cancer. In this paper, we explore how cancer patients and survivors in Tamil Nadu weave the public health discourse together with other sociocultural and religious discourses of cancer to create complex understandings and experiences of social suffering caused by cancer and to find ways to mitigate such suffering. Based on interviews conducted in hospital wards with women cervical and breast cancer patients and survivors, this paper explores how women often experience cancer as a biological, social and spiritual affliction that can be cured only when biomedical modalities of treatment are used in conjunction with religious modalities of healing.

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Extracto del texto

A Mother’s Death1

Panjalai,2 a community health worker for a non-governmental organization (NGO) in the Kanchipuram District of the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, told us that she believed her mother died of late stage cervical cancer due to biological processes. But, she added, many of her relatives hinted that it might have been caused by immoral behavior. And her sister, Roja, suspected their mother’s illness and death was caused by sorcery. In order to be out of ear-shot from her neighbors in the dalit, or Scheduled Caste, section of her village where she lived, we had followed Panjalai along raised footpaths dividing verdant paddy fields to an open area with two cremation pyre platforms side-by-side. Panjalai explained that the fully constructed cremation platform was used by the Backward Class groups in the village who are deemed to have higher, more privileged status than members of the Scheduled Castes. Scheduled Caste Hindu villagers like herself had been strictly prohibi...


She is Professor and Head of Studies of Anthropology at Yales-NUSCollege. Her areas of expertise are in South Asia Studies, cultural anthropology, medical anthropology, and gender and sexuality.

She is PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at George Washington University. Her research interests include the anthropology of religion, science and the environment. Her current project explores religious revival in the amid riverine erosion in the island of Majuli, Assam.

She is recently graduate from Syracuse University with a bachelor’s degree public Health. Her senior thesis focused on public perception of colorectal cancer screening and her research interests are in Public health, cancer, science, and medicine. She currently works for the American Cancer Society as a fundraising specialist.

© Éditions de l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales, 2019

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