State vs. Culture or State ‘and’ Culture vs. the Individual Body: A review analysis

G. Kaur


This paper reflects on the dichotomy of state and culture through ‘certain groups of people’, impacting their behaviour and wants towards their own health. Analysis commences with a brief commentary on pre-independence India, whereby the rhetoric of nationalism was imprinted on individual bodies through the call for maintaining the health of a nation. This argument is then extended to include the present day-scenario of the state, whereby, the state sees itself as something beyond the individual; where it is the hub of ‘know-how’ of maintaining its population, yet at the same time distant from it. Second section presents the control of culture through community on the bodies of individual members (women). The two arguments are based on the review of an in-depth study by Jeffery and Jeffery (2010) in a village in Uttar Pradesh on the perceptions of the village population on national health policies. The article is concluded, with the necessity to understand and discover discourses of not state vs. culture (or community), but also of state and culture vs. agency vis-à-vis health and health care provisions.



state, culture, bodies (women), structural violence, systemic control

Full Text:



Alter, J. (1996). Gandhi’s Body, Gandhi’s Truth: Nonviolence and the Biomedical Imperative of Public Health. The Journal of Asiatic Studies, 55(2), 301-322.

Amrith, S. (2007). Political Culture of Health in India: A Historical Perspective. Economic and Political Weekly, 42(2), 114-121.

Arnold, D. (1993). Colonising the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth Century India. Berkley: University of California Press.

Balen, F. van, & Inhorn, M. C. (2003). Son Preference, Sex Selection and the “New” Reproductive Technologies. International Journal of Health Services, 33(2), 235-252.

Behague, D. P,. & Storeng, K. T. (2008). Collapsing the Vertical-Horizontal Divide: An Ethnographic Study of Evidence-Based Policymaking Maternal Health. American Journal of Public Health, 98(4), 644-649.

Bourdieu, P. (1990). The Logic of Practice (Cambridge: Polity Press).

Castillo, O. (1993). “Apolitical Intellectual”. Translated by M. Randall in C. Forche (Ed.), Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry Of Witness (pp. 607-608). New York: Norton.

Census of India. (2011). Sex Ratio, viewed on 20 November 2013 (

Daniel, E. V. (1998). Suffering Nation and Alienation. In A. Kleinman, V. Das, & M. Lock (Eds.), Social Suffering (pp.309-358). New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Das, V. (1995). Critical Events. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

DeLugan, M. R. (2013). Book and Film Reviews Exposing Gendercide in India and China. Current Anthropology, 54(5), 649-650.

Dreze, J., & Sen A. (2013). An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions. New Delhi: Penguin Books.

Farmer, P. (2001). Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plague. California: University of California Press.

Farmer, P. (2003). Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights and the New War on the Poor. California: University of California Press.

Farmer, P. (2010). Partner to the Poor. California: University of California Press.

Farooq, S. (2010). Millennium Development Goal 5 – Future Challenges. Journal of Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, 9(2), 47-48.

Gandhi, M. K. (1947). India of My Dreams. Ahmedabad: Navjivan Mudranalaya.

Gupta, A., & Ferguson, J. (1992). Beyond “Culture”: Space, Identity and the Politics of Difference. Cultural Anthropology, 7(1), 6-23.

Gupta, A. (2012). Red Tape: Bureaucracy, Structural Violence, and Poverty in India. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan Pvt. Ltd.

Jambai, A., & MacCormak, C. (1996). Maternal Health, War, and Religious Tradition: Authoritative Knowledge in Pujeun District, Sierra

Leone. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 10(2), 270-286.

Jeffery, P., & Jeffery, R. (2010). Only When the Boat has Started Sinking: A Maternal Death in Rural North India. Social Science and Medicine, 71(10), 1711-1718.

Kleinamn, A., Das, V., & Lock, M. (Eds.). (1998). Social Suffering. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Langer, L. (1998). Social Suffering and Holocaust Suffering. In A. Kleinman, V. Das, & M. Lock (Eds.), Social Suffering (pp.47-65). New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Liese, K. L. (2010) Why Women Don’t Die in Childbirth: Maternal Survivorship in Badakhashan, Tajikistan. In L. Manderson, & C. Smith-Morris (Eds.), Chronic Conditions, Fluid States: Chronicity and Anthropology of Illness (p.153). New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.

Lim, S., Dandona L., Hoisington, J. A., James, S, L., Hogan, M. C., & Gakidou, E.(2010). India’s Janani Suraksha Yojana, A Conditional Cash Transfer Programme to Increase Births at Health Facilities: An Impact Evaluation. Lancet, 375(9730), 2009-2023.

Lizardo, O. (2009. The Cognitive Origin of Bourdieu’s habitus. Journal for the Theory of Social behaviour, 34(4), 375-401.

Malik, J. S., Kalhan, M., Punia, A., & Behera, B. K. (2013). Utilisation of Financial Assistance under Janani Suraksha Yojana in Rural India. Nigerian Journal of Basic and Clinical Sciences, 10(1), 8-12.

Mathur, K. (2008). Gender Hierarchies and Inequalities: Taking Stock of Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health. Economic and Political Weekly, 43(49), 54-61.

Murray, S. J. (2006). “Thanatopoloitics: On the use of Death for Mobilising Political Life. Polygraph, 18,191-215.

Pahwa, P., & Sood, A. (2013). Existing Practices and Barriers of MCH Services ─ A Case Study of Urban Slums of district Mohali, Punjab, India. Global Journal of Medicine and Public Health, 2(4), 1-8.

Purewal, N. K. (2010). Son Preference: Sex Selection, Gender and Culture in South Asia. New York: Berg Publications.

Reddy, H., Pradhan, M. R., Ghosh, R., & Khan, A.G. (2012). India’s Progress towards Millennium Development Goal 4 and 5 on Infant and Maternal Mortality. WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health, 1(3), 279-289.

Sanneving, L., Trygg, N., Saxena, D., Maralankar, D., & Thomsen, S. (2013). Inequity in India: The Case of Maternal and Reproductive Health. Global Health Action, 6, 1-31.

Sesia, P. M. (2009). Women Come here on their Own When They Need to: Prenatal Care, Authoritative Knowledge and Maternal Health in Oaxaca. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 10(2), 121-140.

Shah, K.T, (Ed.) (1947). National Planning Committee Series: National Health. Bombay: Vora and Co. Publishers Ltd.

Singh, S., Remez, L., Ram, U., Moore, A. M., & Audam, S. (2009). Barriers to Safe Motherhood in India. New York: Guttmatcher Institute.

Varley, E. (2010). Targeted Doctors, Missing Patients: Obstetric Health Services and Sectarian Conflict in Northern Pakistan. Social Science and Medicine, 70, 61-70.

Vikram, K., Sharma, A.K., & Kannan, A.T. (2013). Beneficiary Level Factors Influencing Janani Suraksha Yojana in Urban Slum Population of Trans-Yamuna Area of Delhi. Indian Journal of Medical Research, 138, 340-346.

Vora, K. S., Mavalankar, D. S., Ramani, K.V., Upadhyaya, M., Sharma, B., Iyengar, S., Gupta, V., & Iyengar, K. (2009). Maternal Health Situation in India: A Case Study. Journal of Health and Population Nutrition, 27(2). 184-201.



  • There are currently no refbacks.