Technology, Kinship, and Wild Spirits
This chapter examines illness in relation to kinship and medical technologies by focusing on the case of a Delhi man named Billu, who nearly loses himself with the deaths of his brother and his newborn son within the same month; what finally reattaches him to life is not a grand resolution of the problems he faced but his acknowledgment of a limit through the force of the spirit. Drawing on Billu's experience, the chapter considers the complexity arising from being called to awaken by another in the context of competing obligations to the living, the dead, and the dying. It shows how new medical technologies enter low-income neighborhoods and expand the sphere of kinship obligations. Instead of finding the ethical in the fulfillment of these obligations, it argues that the problem becomes that of limiting the force of these obligations. Parallel to new technologies are new figures of the occult that emerge, such as roaming spirits through whom the morality of the village and that of the city are put into a subtle clash, reflecting the impossible demands that have to be negotiated in the light of these new technologies.
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