New Pathologies and Old Susceptibilities: Aging and Chronic Disease in India and South Africa (1940-50s)

Friday, 27 June, 2014 - 17:30

WiSER invites you to a public lecture by

Kivata Sivaramakrishnan

Assistant Professor of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

New Pathologies and Old Susceptibilities: Aging and Chronic Disease in India and South Africa (1940s-50s)

In the decades after the Second World War, experts in Europe and the United States increasingly viewed the problem of aging and the growing challenges posed by chronic, degenerative diseases as being closely linked. Both conditions were associated with and distinguished 'civilized' nations from backward societies, and marked a narrative of epidemiological and demographic progress.

Through the ideas and writings of an Indian and South African scientist who were engaged  in mapping the geographic pathology of cancers worldwide, this talk will trace and explore the following questions: what made aging or its biomedical framing ‘western’ or how far was it a western experience of chronic diseases and their onset in later life? How was this knowledge taken and refracted beyond the west to be reshaped by experts in other settings, often with distinct visions and agenda? How did diseases of 'civilization' or conditions that western experts associated with advanced, industrial societies and long lifespan, manifest themselves in ‘primitive’ societies that were mired in infections and poverty and were characterized by a 'young' population? This talk traces these biomedical ideas amongst a shifting terrain of anxieties and concerns about development and decolonization. It is part of an ongoing  project on the international politics of aging that is supported by a Scholars Award from the National Science Foundation.

Kavita Sivaranajkirshnan is a medical historian and public health specialist who amongst other responsibilities is the Co-Director of the Ageing theme in Sociomedical Sciences and an Assistant Professor at Columbia University where her home faculty is the Mailman School of Public Health.

Educated at the University of Delhi (BA) and also at Cambridge University, Kavita completed her PhD at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Selected publications include:

Sivaramakrishnan, K. Old Potions, New Bottles: Recasting Indigenous Medicine in Colonial Punjab (Wellcome Trust and Orient Longman 2006).

Sivaramakrishnan, K. “Aging and dependence in an independent Indian nation: Migrant families, workers and social experts” Journal of Social History 2013.

Kumar, S; Calvo, R.; Avendano, M.; Sivaramakrishnan, K.; Berkman, L. F. Social Support, Volunteering and Health around the World: Cross-National Evidence from 139 Countries Social Science and Medicine 74 696-706. March 2012.

Sivaramakrishnan, K. The Return of Epidemics and the Politics of Global-Local health The American Journal of Public Health 101 1032-41. June 2011.

The talk is part of the symposium Age and the Body: Cultures and Conversations.

Friday, 27 June
WiSER Seminar Room, 6th Floor, Richard Ward Building, East Campus, Wits University
Refreshments will be provided.


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