Veena Das

Veena Das
Johns Hopkins University | JHU · Department of Anthropology

About

175
Publications
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Publications

Publications (175)
Article
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Presentation of the interview with Veena Das and the set of texts related to her work published in the current volume of Sociologia & Antropologia. In the interview, Das talks about the imbrication between writing and forms of life; her childhood and the presence of children in her research; the implications of asymmetries and long-term relationshi...
Article
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Simulated standardized patients (SSP) have emerged as close to a ‘gold standard’ for measuring the quality of clinical care. This method resolves problems of patient mix across healthcare providers and allows care to be benchmarked against preexisting standards. Nevertheless, SSPs are not real patients. How, then, should data from SSPs be considere...
Article
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Working with Veena Das’s Textures of the Ordinary: Anthropology after Wittgenstein By Lotte Buch Segal Repairing the World: Ordinary Ethics and the Shadows of Moralism By Emilija Zabiliūtė The Text’s Texture By Marco Motta The Residues of Kinship By Resto Cruz Uncertain Relations with People, Practice, and Ethnographic Knowledge By Andrew M. Jeffer...
Article
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The use of standardised patients (SPs)—people recruited from the local community to present the same case to multiple providers in a blinded fashion—is increasingly used to measure the quality of care in low-income and middle-income countries. Encouraged by the growing interest in the SP method, and based on our experience of conducting SP studies,...
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Background: In India, men are more likely than women to have active tuberculosis but are less likely to be diagnosed and notified to national tuberculosis programmes. We used data from standardised patient visits to assess whether these gender differences occur because of provider practice. Methods: We sent standardised patients (people recruite...
Article
In this article, I provide a detailed analysis of a case in which an eight-year-old girl was abducted, tortured and raped. She was recovered under somewhat mysterious circumstances. In my analysis, I knit together events inside the court as reflected the judgment and related events outside the court. I try to show, first, how legal technology produ...
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What does thinking of “world as a whole, life” entail for ethnography? Would the modification of life with the adjectival everyday— i.e. “everyday life”—provide a different lens with which to take forward our notions of ethics, or rather, ethical life, in anthropology? The argument of this paper is that everyday life cannot be taken as a given, or...
Article
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Background India has the highest burden of tuberculosis (TB). Although most patients with TB in India seek care from the private sector, there is limited evidence on quality of TB care or its correlates. Following our validation study on the standardized patient (SP) method for TB, we utilized SPs to examine quality of adult TB care among health pr...
Cover Page
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Press release by McGill on new paper in PLoS Medicine: Variations in the quality of TB care in urban India
Data
Follow-up requests from providers by case management outcome, with alternate definitions. (PDF)
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Consistency of providers in repeated Case 1 visits. (PDF)
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Distributions of checklist completion in Case 1 visits. (PDF)
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Comparison between AYUSH and non-AYUSH treatment outcomes. AYUSH, Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha, or Homeopathy. (PDF)
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Statistical methods. (PDF)
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Supplementary results. Assessing variation in provider management of cases; ANOVA decomposition of explained variance; consistency of individual providers across visits; distributions of providers within city-qualification groups. (PDF)
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Sampling flowcharts by primary strata. (PDF)
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Fieldwork details. Description of SP case scenarios; SP recruitment, script development, and training; rationale for approved waiver of provider informed consent; provider sampling; assignment of SP cases to providers. SP, standardized patient. (PDF)
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Pre-analysis plan from study protocol. Study design and methods, and data analysis plan. (PDF)
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ANOVA decomposition of quality correlates. (PDF)
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Correct management of SP case scenarios, with alternate definitions. SP, standardized patient. (PDF)
Article
Recent years in anthropology have seen a noticeable trend, moving from debates about theory to a concern with method. So while some generations ago we would tend to identify ourselves as anthropologists with reference to particular theoretical paradigms-for example, Marxism, (post-)structuralism, cognitivism, cultural materialism, interpretivism-th...
Article
Objective To evaluate the impact on the quality of the care provided for childhood diarrhoea and pneumonia in Bihar, India, of a large-scale, social franchising and telemedicine programme – the World Health Partners’ Sky Program. Methods We investigated changes associated with the programme in the knowledge and performance of health-care providers...
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Este artigo analisa como podemos entender a corrupção como algo ancorado em práticas comuns e cotidianas. Evitando a dupla armadilha da condenação e do relativismo, ele mostra como os pobres urbanos consideram que a aspiração a uma comunidade política purificada cria as condições de possibilidade nas quais o espaço político de ação se fecha para aq...
Article
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Background: India's total antibiotic use is the highest of any country. Patients often receive prescription-only drugs directly from pharmacies. Here we aimed to assess the medical advice and drug dispensing practices of pharmacies for standardised patients with presumed and confirmed tuberculosis in India. Methods: In this cross-sectional study...
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Gum arabic is multifunctional and used in food products, pharmaceutical, confectionery, cosmetic, printing and textile industry. Gum arabic has an excellent market and its production is being increased to meet the market demand. In the process, huge quantity of solid waste is generated during its refining process. An attempt has been made to vermic...
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This paper establishes a dialogue between the later works of Wittgenstein, those of Cavell and the novels of J. M. Coetzee concerning the problem of violence, authority and the authoritative voice. By drawing on J. M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians and Diary of a Bad Year, the paper discusses lessons and insights on the nature of violence and...
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The career of caste as an anthropological concept provides a fascinating terrain on which to examine how anthropological objects come to be invented and stabilized, and the relation they bear to patterns of sociality, needs of government, and production of knowledge. Many textbooks in sociology and social anthropology represent caste as a fundament...
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The authors of this Special Section invite us to consider what it means to go beyond the common trope of ‘trauma’ in conceptualizing events in the Middle East. Considering the question in relation to these contributions, I ask: is trauma a concept with sharp edges or a word at hand saturated with context that grows out of the experience of life and...
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This paper argues for a theory of naming beyond the philosophical concerns with proper names as the test case for theories of reference. Moving forward from anthropological concerns of naming practices as forms of convention, I argue that names in the Indian tradition participate in a wider problematic in which the name opens the person to the worl...
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Do names require a context in order to determine who a name refers to or are names the example par excellence for words that do not require a non-linguistic context to be specified? Since Russell’s (1911) classical paper on this theme, proper names have been treated as a test case for theories of reference in philosophical debates. Whereas those in...
Article
This article focuses on a small slice of scholarly work in India (on democracy and dispossession, on myth, history and historiography) in order to understand how national public preoccupations continue to structure anthropological/sociological knowledge production and its reception within a pluri-centric academic world. We argue that though loci of...
Article
Based on longitudinal ethnographic work, the authors of this special issue on the politics of the urban poor examine how regional events as well as scholarly traditions in these places have influenced the way the categories of the urban poor and of politics have emerged in both scholarly and public discourse. As the discussions that follow make cle...
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This article analyses how we might understand corruption as anchored in ordinary, everyday practices. Avoiding the double trap of condemnation and relativism, it shows how the urban poor see the aspiration for a purified polity as creating the conditions of possibility in which the political space of action closes down for those within what one mig...
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Based on survey research and ethnographic interviews, we analyze struggles over housing and access to infrastructure in two low-income “unplanned settlements” in the National Capital Region of Delhi, India. We argue that political leadership in these two different areas cannot be regarded as a simple extension of traditional forms of authority from...
Article
BACKGROUND: Existing studies of the quality of tuberculosis care have relied on recall-based patient surveys, questionnaire surveys of knowledge, and prescription or medical record analysis, and the results mostly show the health-care provider's knowledge rather than actual practice. No study has used standardised patients to assess clinical practi...
Article
In rural India, as in many developing countries, childhood mortality remains high and the quality of health care available is low. Improving care in such settings, where most health care practitioners do not have formal training, requires an assessment of the practitioners' knowledge of appropriate care and the actual care delivered (the know-do ga...
Article
This comprises the edited proceedings of the 2013 debate on the motion ‘There is no such thing as the good’ held at the University of Manchester. Edited by Soumhya Venkatesan.
Chapter
This chapter revolves around the key question - how does one aspire to a genuine form of life as an anthropologist? In seeking to address this question Veena Das says that it is a mode of knowing that privileges intimacy, simultaneously acknowledging one's separateness from one's respondents and a sense of being in the midst of their everyday world...
Chapter
This chapter analyzes religious pluralism as the normal condition of life in which religious traditions encounter each other. Stepping outside the framework of comparative world religions in which traditions such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism are juxtaposed as fully constituted religions as they confront each other, the pa...
Article
Affliction inaugurates a novel way of understanding the trajectories of health and disease in the context of poverty. Focusing on low-income neighborhoods in Delhi, it stitches together three different sets of issues. First, it examines the different trajectories of illness: What are the circumstances under which illness is absorbed within the norm...
Article
Ayya’s Accounts explores the life of an ordinary man–orphan, refugee, shopkeeper, and grandfather–during a century of tremendous hope and upheaval. Born in colonial India into a despised caste of former tree climbers, Ayya lost his mother as a child and came of age in a small town in lowland Burma. Forced to flee at the outbreak of World War II, he...
Article
Das discusses region as a source of theory and raises concerns about the current state of scholarship, especially (1) the censorship of ideas made possible by government control over research along with a public culture that is increasingly intolerant of differences in interpretation in the name of a feeling ethics; (2) the production of knowledge...
Article
An important issue in considering violence at both the conceptual and empirical levels is the question of what counts as violence and how it is acknowledged. In many polities of the Middle East, including Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan, there is no clear boundary between war and peace. Conflicts have lasted over a long period and even the project...
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There is an interesting ambiguity that marks any discussion on war in much of modern political theory. While it is acknowledged that war entails enormous human suffering, considerable latitude is conceded for moral judgements about the right to wage war, on the grounds that the suffering imposed upon self and others due to war, is an unfortunate ne...
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This article reports on the quality of care delivered by private and public providers of primary health care services in rural and urban India. To measure quality, the study used standardized patients recruited from the local community and trained to present consistent cases of illness to providers. We found low overall levels of medical training a...
Chapter
Article
In what words might I speak of my delight and my gratitude for the life and work of Stanley Cavell? Beyond the attraction certain regions of philosophy hold for anthropology, I might ask what is it in this philosopher that invites me to his world? The publication of Little Did I Know: Excerpts from Memory is first and foremost (for me at any rate),...
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The context is the Partition of India in 1949, with the creation of Pakistan, as seen from the point of view of Punjabi culture (the Punjab was the province closer to the frontiers of the new state) and particularly through the eyes of Asha, a widow 21 years old in 1941, who lived with his deceased husband's family. The transformations derived from...
Article
This paper examines the dynamic, moving relationship between three concepts – those of life, law, and exception. Following a brief exposition of these concepts, this paper provides an ethnography of struggles over housing waged by the urban poor in a squatter colony in Noida that adjoins the city of Delhi, India. I argue that each concept in this t...
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The locus classicus for explaining the problem of suffering may be located in theories of theodicy, a term which derives from a 1710 text of Leibniz. But whatever the name used, it could be said that all human societies have been concerned with explanations of suffering. While arguments for the 'social uses' of suffering assume that it is necessary...
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Global health programmes are damaged by blockages in the upward flow of information from localities and regional centres about realities of professional practice and about patients' lives and conditions of treatment. Power differentials between local actors and national or international decision-makers present further obstacles to effective action....
Article
Hospital-based studies have suggested that fire-related deaths might be a neglected public-health issue in India. However, no national estimates of these deaths exist and the only numbers reported in published literature come from the Indian police. We combined multiple health datasets to assess the extent of the problem. We computed age-sex-specif...
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This article focuses on experiences of the domestic—of houses, of intimacy and privacy—and what relation these bear to the kinds of sentiments about life which are given expression as fragile, endangered or fleeting. We think of singularity as lying in the potential for multiple domesticities that emerge at different times and are neither cotermino...
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Anthropology offers a radical rethinking of the state when it interrogates itself about what would constitute an Ethnography of the state. Western Political Theory has conceived the state as a rational administrative form of political organization and order. One of the effects of thinking the state in terms of ordermaking functions is that the spat...
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This review paper examines the interlocking of violence, gender and subjectivity within the overarching framework of the sexualization of the social contract. Tracking the question of gendered belonging to the nation state, the paper reads the anthropological literature along with feminist and critical theory to bring out the relation between repro...
Chapter
The Ethnographic ContextThe Institutional Commitment to Kinship of a Certain SortOriginsAnother Scene of OriginA FuneralTime and Subjectivity: Towards Some Conclusions
Chapter
Forms of collective violence such as riots and ethnic cleansing pose an analytical challenge to social science for the political plenitude inherent in categories of collective violence makes it very difficult to separate facts and values. In political theory wars are distinguished from other forms of collective violence on the principle that states...
Chapter
This chapter studies how illness experiences are a relational testing ground and life experiment for the urban poor in New Delhi, distinguishing differing medical practices, expertise, and practitioners, and identifying the ways illness categories emerge through medical interactions and local family dynamics. It goes beyond governmental institution...
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What are the practices of the self by which the subject comes to be attached to the nation-state and its law, and how are forms of transgression themselves premised on this form of attachment? Paradoxically, the claims of modern states that they are dedicated to the rule of law and to the building of enduring social peace and toleration are coupled...
Book
In this powerful, compassionate work, one of anthropology's most distinguished ethnographers weaves together rich fieldwork with a compelling critical analysis in a book that will surely make a signal contribution to contemporary thinking about violence and how it affects everyday life. Veena Das examines case studies including the extreme violence...

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Project (1)
Project
My co-PI, Madhukar Pai and I are working together with a fantastic multi-disciplinary team looking at Tuberculosis in two big Indian cities. Built around a Gates Foundation funded program, the project uses TB as a lens to examine 3 big questions: 1. How is TB diagnosed and treated in Indian cities 2. How can we work with a fragmented private sector 3. How does new technology spread in the medical community Our team consists of Ben Daniels at the World Bank, Ada Kwan at Berkeley, Veena and Ranen Das at Johns Hopkins, Srinath Satyanarayana at McGill, Vaibhav Saria at ISERDD and the field team of the Institute of Socioeconomic Research on Democracy and Development (ISERDD).