Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Anthropology, University of California / San Diego

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2009
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Cornell University
Many Lives of Suffering: Human Rights and Psychiatry in Practice in Kashmir

Kashmir has experienced massive political and social upheavals in recent years--including thirteen years of armed insurgency (1989-2002) and a devastating earthquake in 2005--leading to what human rights organizations have described as an "epidemic of trauma." Yet, despite the wide scale of suffering, there have been very few studies which have documented how Kashmiris have embodied, experienced, and overcome violence in their everyday lives. This study takes an important step in this direction by asking how social suffering is experienced differently by Kashmiri 'experts' and 'non-experts' in two institutional sites in the city of Srinagar: the Government Psychiatric Diseases Hospital, and the Human Rights Law Network, a human rights NGO. Specifically, I will investigate how Kashmiri lawyers and psychiatrists use the concept of 'trauma' to understand suffering in legal and medical terms. Second, I will ask how mass suffering has disrupted or transformed the routine practices of these 'experts' themselves. While anthropologists have privileged the experiences of clients or patients in their encounters with medical and legal experts, I will contribute to scholarship on violence by showing how 'experts' transform, and are also transformed by, different forms of social suffering. Through in-depth interviews and observations of lawyers, psychiatrists, and their clients/patients in the 'clinic' and 'courtroom,' this project hypothesizes that mass social suffering in Kashmir has redrawn boundaries between 'experts' and 'non-experts,' thus offering a critical rethinking of notions of victimhood.