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Veena Das

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780823261802

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823261802.001.0001

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Mental Illness, Psychiatric Institutions, and the Singularity of Lives

Mental Illness, Psychiatric Institutions, and the Singularity of Lives

(p.82) Three Mental Illness, Psychiatric Institutions, and the Singularity of Lives

Veena Das

Fordham University Press

This chapter examines how illness is dispersed over people, relationships, and technologies by focusing on the case of a Delhi boy named Swapan, who is suffering from madness. It describes what happens to a young person whose madness unsettles the family to the extent that the neighbors and wider kin become implicated, taking sides and finding temporary respite in what the outside world has to offer. The chapter begins with an overview of psychopathology and the challenge it presents to narrative theories of the self. It then considers modernity in relation to the failure of medical institutions, the politics of family, and the devaluation of its nonproductive members, along with the lure of the modern in such forms as the ability to speak in English. It also explains what the story of Swapan and his family struggling to deal with mental illness and unstable financial conditions tells us about madness in the context of urban poverty.

Keywords:   illness, madness, family, psychopathology, modernity, medical institutions, politics, mental illness, urban poverty

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