Accepted paper:

Mobile phone masts and fears of disease in contemporary India

Authors:

Amelia Bonea (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will identify and discuss health concerns associated with mobile phone masts in contemporary India, examining the ways in which they are perceived to intrude upon the body, leading to physical and mental illness or discomfort.

Paper long abstract:

As studies of medicine and technology have repeatedly pointed out, new technologies of transport and communication often generate new risks of disease, from influenza pandemics and radiation sickness due to air travel to conditions such as RSIs associated with the prolonged use of computers and mobile phones. Concerns about the increased risk of headaches, infertility and various types of cancer among regular users of mobile phones and people living in the vicinity of mobile phone masts are another, globally relevant example of health anxieties. In contemporary India, home to the world's second biggest market of mobile phone users, this topic has attracted a considerable degree of attention during the last decade, particularly in densely populated urban areas such as Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. The mobile phone towers are often erected on residential buildings, schools, hospitals and parks and have thus become an integral part of the city landscape, their very existence the object of intense negotiation between residents, government, telecommunication companies, scholars and activists. This paper will identify and discuss health concerns associated with mobile phone masts in contemporary India, examining the manifold ways in which they are perceived to intrude upon the body, leading to physical and mental illness or discomfort. The paper will also provide an opportunity to discuss the broader issue of how medical knowledge is created and shared with the non-specialist public.

panel P28
ICTs, biopolitics and health: making and unmaking bodies and persons in a world of globalised telecommunications