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Accepted Paper:

Functional Digestive Disorders and the Gut Microbiome: Socio-Cultural Investigations in Urban India  
Erika Patho (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

Situated in a hospital setting, preeminent in clinical research on functional digestive disorders (FGIDs) in India, the paper examines how patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome are seeking cure, utilizing dietary and technological interventions in order to optimize their digestion.

Paper long abstract:

The proposed paper is an ethnographic study of functional digestive disorders and modern-day gut pathologies in contemporary urban India. Based at a gastroenterology department of a distinguished medical institute and simultaneously attending outpatient consultations of an Ayurvedic clinic, I follow how patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are seeking care in and across the medical pluralist landscape. Conversing with patients about their personal narratives and the complexities of their long-term medical trajectories, I aim to shed light on how they perceive, interpret and reconcile with their diagnoses in the absence of an organic cause. In this pursuit, the invisible worlds of microbes and troubled guts become the object of scientific experiments and tests, promising detectable results in the hope of facilitating a reliable medicalized remedy. Besides inquiries into the established technologies of care and cure of IBS, the research is set out to engage with patients’ fragmented notions of ‘their’ illness, their hopes, and their distinctive tactics of negotiating their condition and care. I examine how deeply embedded cultural notions concerning diet, local ideologies about social norms and health-seeking behaviour in Indian society influence how patients make meaning of their disturbed guts and navigate the attached label of IBS. The proposed paper aims to advance our understanding of how microbiome science is embodied and enacted within and between the realms of biomedical and Ayurvedic practice, contemporary clinical research and patients’ bodies and lifeworlds in the Indian context.

Panel P233
Oh my gut: anthropological pathways to the cultural, affective, medical and multispecies entanglements of the gut
  Session 2