Cancer and secrecy in contemporary India
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In examining the secrecy around cancer in India, I develop recent anthropological work on how practices of medical non-disclosure grow out of contextually rooted notions of care. I extend the insights of this work in rejecting the framing of non-disclosure as a sign of cultural lack. But while much of this recent literature on biomedical non-disclosure is framed as a critique of bioethics, I am concerned here with describing the complexity of the lived experience in between disclosure and non-disclosure. Paying attention to this processual nature of non-disclosure reveals how it does not operate as a binary choice between concealing and revealing, and consequently, knowing or not knowing. Instead, I argue that weaving between disclosure and non-disclosure allowed my interlocutors to inhabit the space of the ‘as-if’—of living in a subjunctive tense. Living in the subjunctive made possible brief respites from the real, even as such respite often turned out to be temporary, and the as-if never really escaped the grasp of the actual. Finally, I suggest finally that what one tells, to whom, and when reveal how the burden of cancer is distributed across social networks, vitally shaping possibilities and trajectories for cancer treatment and care.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Program in Science, Technology and Society
Springer Science and Business Media
Banerjee, Dwaipayan. "Cancer and secrecy in contemporary India." BioSocieties 14, 4 (April 2019): 496–511 © 2019 Springer Nature Limited
Author's final manuscript