Event: The Snake Goddess and her Antidote (Healthcare Responses in Rural West Bengal) on 15 June at IIM Ahmedabad
You are invited to a seminar titled: The Snake-Goddess and her Antidote: Compelling Collectivity Against Inequality and Uncertainty
Please see details below. All interested are welcome to attend and stay for interactive discussion after the 30-45 minute talk.
Thanks and Best
Navdeep Mathur, Ph.D. Public Systems Group Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad Vastrapur, Ahmedabad 380 015, India
-- Speaker: Dr. Dia DaCosta, Queens University, Canada. Date: Monday, 15th June 2009 Time: 5.30pm to 7.10 pm (Tea at 5.30, Talk starts 5.40) Venue: Wing 11, Committee Room, IIMA Title: The Snake-Goddess and her Antidote: Compelling Collectivity Against Inequality and Uncertainty
ABSTRACT: As the newly liberalized insurance industry in India, actively persuades a public about the rationality and morality of spending money to insure future life against bad health, uncertainty, and unhappiness, this paper draws lessons from rural practices of healthcare and insurance. The paper follows a line from a political play performed mainly in rural West Bengal - 'Snakes live in the village, and the antidote lives in cities' - offstage into life-historical contexts where villagers respond to widespread death from snake bites, defunct rural health systems, and worship of Manasa the snake-goddess. Modernizing projects worldwide insisted that culture and tradition are antithetical to development. Today, spirited neoliberal projects want to take culture into account. They cannot fathom however, how snake goddesses can be antidotes for snake bites. When push comes to shove, the 'stubbornly superstitious' villager remains guilty of 'blind' beliefs. Drawing on field notes, secondary survey data, and interviews to situate the worship of Manasa in its social context, I argue that the secularism of development blinds critical examination of lived religion. Contemporary belief in Manasa must be understood in contexts of grief and material distress emanating from an unequal, if not absent, healthcare system, inadequate communication infrastructure, and lack of electricity. At the same time, belief in Manasa is not simply 'false' consciousness in the absence of 'real' medical advance. At heart, Manasa is an antidote and insurance as she helps form collectivity in the face of uncontrollable sources of illness and death.
Dr. Dia Da Costa is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Global Development Studies in Queen's University, Canada. She completed her Phd. in Development Sociology from Cornell University, MA from University of Warwick and BA from University of Delhi.
Using the primary analytic lens of political theatre her research involves ethnographic analyses of development and social change. She has studied theatre groups Jan Sanskriti in rural West Bengal, and JANAM in urban Delhi, and more recently is interested in the use of theatre to mobilize around issues of sexuality, criminality and legality. The work of these theatre groups allows her to conceptualise political action and social justice in a post colonial democracy.
Her recent publications appear in journals such as Signs, Globalization, Journal of African and Asian studies, Journal of Contemporary Ethnograpghy, and Journal of South Asian Popular Culture.
Her forthcoming book is titled: Development Dramas: Re-imagining Rural Political Action in Eastern India.. (Routledge)
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