Enduring Cancer

Life, Death, and Diagnosis in Delhi

Enduring Cancer

Critical Global Health: Evidence, Efficacy, Ethnography

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Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: 32 illustrations Published: August 2020

Anthropology > Medical Anthropology, Asian Studies > South Asia, Medicine and Health > Global Health

In Enduring Cancer Dwaipayan Banerjee explores the efforts of Delhi's urban poor to create a livable life with cancer as patients and families negotiate an overextended health system unequipped to respond to the disease. Owing to long wait times, most urban poor cancer patients do not receive a diagnosis until it is too late to treat the disease effectively. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in the city's largest cancer care NGO and at India's premier public health hospital, Banerjee describes how, for these patients, a cancer diagnosis is often the latest and most serious in a long series of infrastructural failures. In the wake of these failures, Banerjee tracks how the disease then distributes itself across networks of social relations, testing these networks for strength and vulnerability. Banerjee demonstrates how living with and alongside cancer is to be newly awakened to the fragility of social ties, some already made brittle by past histories, and others that are retested for their capacity to support.


“In this wonderful ethnography, Dwaipayan Banerjee shows how cancer in India exists across many relationships, aspirations, frustrations, gendered battles, caregiving gestures, medical sciences, and familial trials. In its lives far beyond the body, cancer is both concealed within the folds of secrecy and stigma and yet still able to reveal the hidden stories that only it can tell. Subtly written and ethnographically rich, this book will have a very wide reach.” — Vincanne Adams, editor of Metrics: What Counts in Global Health

“How do people navigate the uncertainties of cancer? Dwaipayan Banerjee's vivid ethnography shows how secrecy and silence are the currencies for knowing and managing cancer's diagnosis, treatment, pain, and survival in India. He demonstrates the profound implications this has for the ways people voice illness and forge connections with others in uncertain times. This timely and important book will be a landmark for thinking about survival and endurance in medical anthropology, science studies, public health, and South Asian studies.” — Harris Solomon, author of Metabolic Living: Food, Fat, and the Absorption of Illness in India

“Building on the work of scholars such as Susan Sontag, Lawrence Cohen, Veena Das, Sarah Pinto and Lochlann Jain, this book shows how pain is experienced and understood when cancer gets embedded within fragile social relations. Mr Banerjee seems aware that his work could easily slip into romanticising the superhuman resilience of an underserved population, so he approaches the analysis of patients’ survival strategies with remarkable caution and sensitivity…. [T]he author supplements his ethnographic work with insights from cancer memoirs and cancer films. This approach strengthens his analysis, and gives it greater emotional and intellectual depth.” — Chintan Girish Modi, Business Standard Review


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Dwaipayan Banerjee is Associate Professor in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and coauthor of Hematologies: The Political Life of Blood in India.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction  1
1. Concealing Cancer  35
2. Cancer Conjugality  64
3. Researching Pain, Practicing Empathy  84
4. Cancer Memoirs  121
5. Cancer Films  142
6. 171Endurance
Notes  183
Bibliography  205
Index  219
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0955-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0862-0