Chua, J. L. (2014). In Pursuit of the Good Life: Aspiration and Suicide in Globalizing South India. Univ of California Press.
Once celebrated as a model development for its progressive social indicators, the southern Indian state of Kerala has earned the new distinction as the nation’s suicide capital, with suicide rates soaring to triple the national average since 1990. Rather than an aberration on the path to development and modernity, Keralites understand this crisis to be the bitter fruit borne of these historical struggles and the aspirational dilemmas they have produced in everyday life. Suicide, therefore, offers a powerful lens onto the experiential and affective dimensions of development and global change in the postcolonial world.
In the long shadow of fear and uncertainty that suicide casts in Kerala, living acquires new meaning and contours. In this powerful ethnography, Jocelyn Chua draws on years of fieldwork to broaden the field of vision beyond suicide as the termination of life, considering how suicide generates new ways of living in these anxious times.
Appropriating Depression: Biomedicalizing Ayurvedic Psychiatry in Kerala, India
Claudia Lang & Eva Jansen
The appropriation of biopsychiatric concepts such as depression, and their reframing in clinical and academic discussions, are important parts of the revitalization of bhūt vidyā as Ayurvedic psychiatry. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Kerala from 2009 to 2011, in this article we explore the process and the controversies of translating and correlating the biopsychiatric notion of depression, as a discrete and biologic pathological entity, with Ayurvedic notions of body, mind, and mental distress. Depression, conceptualized as a neurochemical imbalance, is, we argue, relatively compatible with Ayurvedic notions of a fluent body and mind, and so is easier to correlate with Ayurvedic concepts of dosic imbalances and blockages of channels than the former psychoanalytically dominated model of depression. The appropriation of depression within Ayurvedic discourse challenges the dichotomy of universal and culture-specific disorders, and this has a significant impact on mental health programs in Kerala.