Accepted Paper:

Spoiled bodies, resurging power: contestation of a lesser identity  

Author:

Yen Le (The Australian National University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper describes the experiences of leprosy-affected people as the recipients of charity and assistance.

Paper long abstract:

Although leprosy is now curable and no longer a major public health problem, in Vietnam the disease is still widely perceived as one of the most 'miserable' (khổ) ones. Communities of people affected by leprosy therefore attract a remarkable amount of charity donation and aid from the state, from different organisations, groups and individuals.

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in a leprosy village of Vietnam, the paper describes the experiences of leprosy-affected people as the recipients of charity and assistance. Placing the leprosy-affected recipients and their donors in the moral landscape that informs and lubricates their interaction, the paper sheds light on the dynamics of charity giving and receiving. It examines residents' agentive practices of uniting and enterprising as a community as well as strategising at the individual and household level to attract charities and maximise assistance. To that end, people affected by leprosy strategically select certain self-presentations that show off themselves, their bodies and their lives in ways that most effectively encourage donations and aid. Analysing the deployment of 'leprosy capital' for strategic goals, the paper also sheds light on leprosy as a valued asset and on the possession of leprosy as a desirable, contested status.

Panel Med05
Disease and goodness