Saiba VarmaJan 27, 2021
The Occupied Clinic
Militarism and Care in Kashmir
Duke University Press 2020
In The Occupied Clinic: Militarism and Care in Kashmir (Duke UP, 2020), Saiba Varma explores the psychological, ontological, and political entanglements between medicine and violence in Indian-controlled Kashmir—the world's most densely militarized place. Into a long history of occupations, insurgencies, suppressions, natural disasters, and a crisis of public health infrastructure come interventions in human distress, especially those of doctors and humanitarians, who struggle against an epidemic: more than sixty percent of the civilian population suffers from depression, anxiety, PTSD, or acute stress. Drawing on encounters between medical providers and patients in an array of settings, Varma reveals how colonization is embodied and how overlapping state practices of care and violence create disorienting worlds for doctors and patients alike. Varma shows how occupation creates worlds of disrupted meaning in which clinical life is connected to political disorder, subverting biomedical neutrality, ethics, and processes of care in profound ways. By highlighting the imbrications between humanitarianism and militarism and between care and violence, Varma theorizes care not as a redemptive practice, but as a fraught sphere of action that is never quite what it seems.
Sneha Annavarapu is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago.