Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, History, New York University / NYU Abu Dhabi

Award Information

Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University
Medicine That Works: An Agrarian History of Health and Healing in Colonial Punjab

In this book, I re-think conventional approaches to the history of health and healing in colonial agrarian regions, especially the attention placed on single diseases, medical traditions, and healer-led therapeutic change. Studying the Punjab region during the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries, I explore how the agrarian lower-classes experienced the expansion and intensification of commercial agricultural production through changing seasonal patterns and distribution of human and animal sickness; and how, in turn, these groups fashioned seasonally specialized and effective healing institutions and practices as part of their ongoing labor for survival. As I show, lower-class struggles not only produced a range of healers with characteristic specializations (that cut cleanly across ‘traditions’), but also reshaped resource redistribution practices involving offerings, fees, food, water, medicine, accomodation, transportation, and nursing at major healing institutions, including clinics, hospitals, dispensaries, temples, and shrines alike. Further, by selectively combining the available expertise and resources of similarly-specialized healing institutions, these groups constructed altogether novel and regionally distinctive, seasonal cultures of fever prevention and treatment. Bringing social histories of environmental and medical change into the same frame, my study thus illuminates the central role that the agrarian lower-classes –who were most vulnerable to disease morbidity and mortality – played in shaping South Asia's medical history.