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Emilija Zabiliute

Emilija Zabiliute

Part-time lecturer

Everyday life and health-seeking practices among urban poor in Delhi, India

In post-reform India - a rising global power - inequality between the rich and the poor has increased dramatically. This is particularly palpable in the biggest cities, where claims to ‘World Class’ status are contrasted by high rates of poverty. In New Delhi, urban poor areas are evicted from the central parts of the city for the sake of rising malls and other middle-class spaces. Here, slums represent the other, historically precedent and concealed side of Indian urbanity. Despite precarious living conditions, slums nevertheless remain part of the lived reality in the city. They are embedded in governmental discourses as places that endanger the city.

My project examines everyday life of the urban poor women and their health-seeking practices in an urban poor area (a jhuggi cluster) at the outskirts of Delhi.  I am interested in how women’s experience and subjectivity is foregrounded by their relations with family, the state and various medical institutions, as well as their social positioning as urban poor women in Delhi.

By examining urban poor women’s engagement with governmental, private and erzats medical institutions and practitioners, the project acknowledges the multiplicity of the medical worlds, and their productive force at the margins of Delhi. While to a large extent urban poor are being driven out of Delhi as the city aspires to become a ‘world class’, they also happen to be the main targets of certain biopolitical intervention, and thus are situated at the intersection of care and abjection. Examples of this are the infamous sterilisation camps that drew attention of the critics during the Emergency period, as well as during the recent years. Consequently, the project seeks to provide an understanding of the drives and becomings of the urban poor women that reaches beyond the strict biopolitical models.

Empirically, the project is based on 9 months of fieldwork in a slum in New Delhi as well as its adjacent dispensary. It interrogates a governmental maternal health programme implemented in the locality and ran by a governmental dispensary. This project relies on mixed sources of data, such as participant observation in the slum and a governmental dispensary; interviews with slum dwellers, dispensary medical staff and governmental workers; and governmental documents and informative and representative publications. 

ID: 35120399