Accepted paper:

The social life of numbers in TB treatment in an Indian medical setting

Authors:

Helen Macdonald (University of Cape Town)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on primary research conducted with a Chhattisgarhi NGO at a rural clinic in central India, this paper examines the socially constructed dichotomous relationship between biomedicine and local interpretation of tuberculosis in relation to facts presented as numerical representations.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines models of bio-markers of tuberculosis (TB) beyond the simple linking of tuberculosis with social inequality and poverty, to ask, for example, what role 'numbers' plays in revealing symptoms, as well as the misrecognition of symptoms, and to identify factors that impede certain kinds of 'marking.' Drawing on primary research conducted with a Chhattisgarhi NGO at a rural clinic in central India, this paper examines the socially constructed dichotomous relationship between biomedicine and local interpretation of TB in relation to facts presented as numerical representations. In clinic spaces particular attention was paid to the counselling sessions, and the knowledge that doctors chose to record and those they imparted as TB 'facts'. In contrast where local knowledge was lacking biomedical underpinnings, a formidable yet gendered knowledge base is present in conceptions of TB. This paper argues that the local and the biomedical actually conflate and resemble an agglomerate of local understandings of disease focused particularly around notions of 'numbers' that both acknowledge and at times neglect the political economy.

panel P11
Infectious disease and wealth: exploring the links between tuberculosis and the political economy