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Cultivating distress: farmer suicides and local mental health in Telangana, India

Kannuri, NK; (2015) Cultivating distress: farmer suicides and local mental health in Telangana, India. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines the manifestation of global and national policies in rural distress and mental health wellbeing of cotton farmers in India. It draws upon the disciplines of medical anthropology and cultural psychiatry to argue for a re-calibration of health care systems and mental health pedagogy. The thesis addresses three interlinked research questions. Firstly, to examine the social and cultural contexts of farmer suicides. Secondly, how and why do these socio-cultural issues mediate between cotton farming and mental distress? The third question investigates the psycho-social consequences for survivors. Ethnographic field work for 12 months (2011-2012) was conducted in a village in Warangal district, Telangana State, India. A nuanced analysis points at a confluence of global and local forces in defining rural predicament when encountering modernity. Bt cotton symbolises this plight as it demonstrates the transformation of rural landscapes into environmentally and culturally toxic terrains. Such toxic landscapes amplify existing social and cultural marginalities leading to immense distress. Marginalised communities embody their suffering in both psychological and social forms. Furthermore this process generates an unrelenting state of social defeat amongst the despaired farmers. The thesis posits that shrinking state responsibility, inactive civil society and media posturing lead to an erasure of rural distress and renders it socially invisible. This is compounded by state oppression that denies cotton farmers an agency to collectivise and resist reproducing their marginalised identities. The thesis explicates that health and wellbeing of farmers are contingent on rural distress that continues to be unaddressed. The existing cultural gap between the clinic and people poses a challenge for local biomedical health care. The thesis proposes that in order to transform such toxic into ‘healing’ landscapes, a radical rethink of texts and training of professionals and policy makers is required. An interdisciplinary approach that is culturally sensitive and is critical of received wisdom and global models is vital. This applies to disciplines of agriculture, public health and social sciences.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Cultivating distress: farmer suicides and local mental health in Telangana, India
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Cotton farmer suicides, Local mental health, Ethnography, Toxic and Healing landscapes, Interdisciplinary approach
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Division of Psychiatry
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1469154
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