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Health as a Form of Politics in North India

Author Robert D. SMITH
Director of thesis Aditya Bharadwaj (IHEID);
Co-director of thesis Lawrence Cohen (UC Berkeley); Umut Yıldırım (IHEID)
Summary of thesis

In 2013, the Aam Aadmi [common man] Party (AAP) was elected to the Delhi Government and promised to provide the aam aadmi with the right to health by establishing 1,000 Mohalla [neighborhood] Clinics by 2015: primary healthcare clinics that the AAP claims will achieve Universal Health Coverage. The AAP’s governance of health departs from histories of neoliberal health austerity because the AAP builds new, publicly funded healthcare infrastructures. However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) run Central Government of India controls the public land in Delhi, and often refuses to allocate land for the AAP to build Mohalla Clinics. What is at stake in this context is how the possibilities of governing health are limited by political competition: the AAP claims that to fulfil their promise of health, they need to be elected to the Central Government of India. Therefore, for the AAP, governing health in Delhi often has more to do with competing for positions of electoral-political power than with the management of the healthcare system. This governance of health escapes anthropology’s traditional biopolitical understandings of health governance, and suggests that we need to take more seriously the politics of bio-politics. Therefore, my research asks: how does the AAP govern health; how does health become political in Delhi; how did clinics become an object of contemporary electoral politics; and how is health experienced in the mohalla [neighborhood]? To answer these questions, I will conduct 18 months of ethnographic research, media analysis, archival research, and interviews in Delhi. This research will bring into conversation the sub-disciplines of medical and political anthropology to provide insights for health policy makers, political actors, and global audiences about the possibilities and limitations of health within electoral democracy.

Status on-going
Administrative delay for the defence 2027
URL https://graduateinstitute.academia.edu/RobertSmith