Dr. Emilija Zabillute (Copenhagen University)

Women’s Health and Gender Equality: How Global Health is Refracted in Everyday Health Interventions

05 October 2017 – 05 January 2019

India’s health indicators show significant disparities across social classes, as poorer sections suffer from a variety of health disorders and lack of access to health care. This study takes this matter as a vantage point to explore everyday lives and health-seeking practices among urban poor women in an informal settlement at the margins of Delhi. Based on long-term fieldwork among urban poor women, formal and informal medical practitioners and at a governmental health clinic dedicated for reproductive health, the study provides an ethnography of everyday lives of the women, their life worlds, experiences of illness and their engagements with diverse healthcare ecologies in an informal settlement. By taking everyday life as a vantage point to study illness and healthcare encounters, the study explores the effects of kin and neighbourly relatedness on women’s health choices and illness experiences. The study rethinks precarity among poor embedded in political economies, and shows how vulnerabilities among the poor are relational. By considering the diversity of medical care available to the poor, the study also shows how their access to health is less a question of lack, and more of quality, coherence and navigation of complex healthcare ecologies.
This study also delves into the ways global health and gender politics are refracted by the micropolitics of everyday. Indian state’s public health interventions are linked to the transnational discourses of gender equality, yet, they often take on new messages and are refracted through micropolitics as the interventions unfold in the everyday in a clinic, dedicated to the urban poor. Here, women’s bodies and health are problematised in terms of gender and kin vulnerabilities, thus resulting in a complex configuration of gendered knowledge about urban poor women. Yet, the clinic here is not only a “translator” of global gender equality discourses into the local context, but also co-produces new forms of gendered familial notions about urban poor women.


Emilija Zabiliute is a scholar in the fields of South Asian Studies and Medical Anthropology ,with interests in illness, medical ecologies, gender and subjectivity. She completed her PhD dissertation on ‘Living with Others: Subjectivity, Relatedness and Health among Urban Poor in Delhi” from the University of Copenhagen, Centre for Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies. She then held a post-doctoral position at the Nordic Centre of Asian Studies (NIAS).

2016, ’Wandering in a Mall: Aspirations and Family among Urban Poor Young Men in Delhi’, Contemporary South Asia 24 (2), Special Issue: Social Mobility in Post-reform India.
2016, Living with others: subjectivity, relatedness and health among urban poor in Delhi, Copenhagen: University of Copenhagen/ Faculty of Humanities, Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies (unpublished PhD thesis).
2015 Dissertation review. Andrew McDowell, Troubling Breath. Tuberculosis, Care and Subjectivity at the Margins of Rajasthan, in Dissertation Reviews. http://dissertationreviews.org/archives/10938.
2015, ‘Book review on Sarah Pinto, Daughters of Parvati. Women and Madness in Contemporary India’, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 38 (3).
2014, ‘Notes from the field: Delhi Assembly elections, daru and politization of violence against women’ Feminist Review 107 (1).
2012, ‘Reconstructing Caste: Post-colonialism, Transnational Activism and Dalit Human Rights’, Acta Orientalia Vilnensia 11 (2).

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