India has one of the highest rates of suicides among people between the age of 15 and 29 years. Many of these are young adults in college and university who belong to marginalised communities. Between 2007 and 2017, 20 Dalit students committed suicide in India’s most premier institutes like IIT, IIM, AIIMS, and the University of Hyderabad. Now India’s most politically vibrant campus Jawaharlal Nehru University is also on the list with the recent suicide of a Dalit M.Phil student who hanged himself on March 13. His death leaves us dumbfounded as we seek explanations and reasons as to why he chose to end his life. Many have written about it, blaming the institution for this; many, including several student activists, found it a cowardly act. They proudly refer to Ambedkar, Birsa, Phule, Periyar, Marx and who fought the fight. Such activists perceive life in binaries: cowardly and brave; bourgeois and proletariat class; exploiter and exploited; upper and lower caste. Either you become a Gandhi or a Bhagat Singh. A middle path does not appear to be an option.
Violence and ill-health are inherently related concepts, especially when it comes to the experiences of marginalised population. My recent visit to India contributed to my reflections around this idea. I travelled there to participate in “Difficult Dialogues”, an event co-organized by UCL in Goa, and to give a lecture on “violence in post – colonial contexts” at the SNDT Women´s University, in Mumbai. While in the country, I also tried to travel around a bit, and to experience the local culture first-hand (although the only thing a couple of days could grant me was a short “taster” of the local landscape). After my trip, my perspective on health and illness as contextually shaped was enriched. In fact, a fundamental idea remains salient: structural and cultural violence are a crucial underlying cause of ill-health across cultures.
We’re very proud to be part of Difficult Dialogues this February! Difficult Dialogues is an annual forum examining issues of contemporary relevance in South Asia. It fosters crucial interaction between a diverse array of stakeholders from academia, law, public policy, politics, business, international relations, the media, young leadership and civic society. In this 2017 edition, Difficult Dialogues has partnered with University College London (UCL) to explore the challenges India faces in creating conditions for good health and access to healthcare for all citizens. Dr Jadhav and Dr Jain will be speaking on inequalities and healthcare and you can read more about their interventions and the event by clicking below.
Interdisciplinary is a buzzword these days- one needs to cross-over rigid academic disciplines to solve real life problems which require a multi-faceted approach. In the UK, interdisciplinarity seems to be normatively accepted, even an admirable practice within the Universities. UCL itself clearly emphasizes its focus on interdisciplinary research which in part contributes to its modern progressive research and learning environment. But to quote David Wood (from an article in Nature, 2015), “There’s a huge push to call your work interdisciplinary… but there’s still resistance to doing actual interdisciplinary science.” Building up on this paradox, I’ll discuss, in this post, some of my own reflections on doing an interdisciplinary project. How does one approach interdisciplinary projects- are they just the new academic fad or a new paradigm of research in an ever so complex world?