Caste, COVID-19, and Inequalities of Care: Lessons from South Asia

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Sanghmitra S. Acharya, Stephen Christopher
Springer Nature, Mar 1, 2022 - Political Science - 394 pages
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This book explores how social discrimination in South Asia contributes to health disparities and impedes well-being. Specifically, it addresses how marginalization shapes health outcomes, both under normal circumstances and specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic. Coming from diverse backgrounds and representing different academic disciplines, the authors have contributed a range of chapters drawing from quantitative and ethnographic material across South Asia. Chapters address reservation politics, tribal lifeways, Dalit exclusions from governmental institutions, Muslim ghettoization, gendered domestic violence, social determinants of health among migrant workers, and the pandemic fallout across South Asian society, among other subjects. Scholars draw on decades of experience and firsthand ethnographic fieldwork among affected communities. The chapters provide an innovative analysis, often in real time, of the human toll of casteism, classism, patriarchy, and religious intolerance—many set against the spectre of COVID-19. Many authors not only present social critiques but also offer specific policy recommendations. The book is of great interest to social scientists, public health practitioners, and policy advocates interested in addressing systemic inequalities and ensuring that future pandemics are not disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable.


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1 Of Prejudice and Pandemics
Part I Institutional Exclusions
State Misrecognition of Himachali Dalits
Alimentary Knots of Tension Around Nutrition Autonomy and Nationhood
4 The Role of Caste Prejudice in Hampering Infection Control Efforts in Government Hospitals
Reflections on COVID19 Experiences in India
Increasing Digital Divide and Vulnerability Among Indian Students
A Reflection on Urban Living Environments and Infrastructure Conditions in Hyderabad
11 How Do Pandemics Affect Frontline Health Interventions? Insights from the National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme in Bengaluru India
Impediments and Resilience of Women in Allahabad District India
13 COVID19 and Violence Against Women in India
Part III Health Inequalities
Learning from the Pandemic
15 Caste Disparities in Health Care Utilization in India
16 Reflections on Gendered Health Inequalities within Households
17 Tea Plantation Workers and the Human Cost of Darjeeling Tea

8 Experiences of and Responses to COVID19 in a Ho Tribal Village in Jharkhand
Part II COVID19 Disparities
An Intersectional Analysis
An Illustration from Bangladesh
18 Socioeconomic Disparities in Access and Utilization of Health Care Services in Nepal
Persistent Inequalities Among Agricultural Communities in a Dry Zone

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About the author (2022)

Sanghmitra S Acharya is Professor in the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She was Director, Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, New Delhi (2015–18), and Chairperson of the Centre (2018-2020). She was Visiting Fellow at CASS, China (2012); Ball State University, USA (2008-09), and UPPI, Manila, The Philippines (2005); East West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii (2003), and University of Botswana (1995-96). She has been awarded fellowships and grants by UNFPA, Asian Scholarship Foundation, USEFI, ICSSR-CASS and SICI. She has authored books and articles on health and discrimination. Her books include 'Social Discrimination in Health Care Access among Dalit Children- Exploring Inclusive Environment. Academic Publications; ‘Marginalization in Globalizing Delhi—Issues of Land, Labour and Health’; and ‘Health, Safety and Well-Being of Workers in the Informal Sector in India—Lessons for Emerging Economies’, both published by Springer. Sustainable Health in the times of COVID, and Sustainable Sanitation and Swachh Bharat- What we owe to the Cleaning Brigade both are under consideration by Aakar and Academic Publications.

Stephen Christopher completed a Ph.D. in anthropology from Syracuse University in 2018, specializing in Himalayan tribal ethnicity and refugee politics. In 2019, he was JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow at Kyoto University. From 2022–24, he is a Marie Curie postdoctoral researcher at the University of Copenhagen. He is the Himalayas Editor at the Database of Religious History at the University of British Columbia. He has taught at Beijing Normal University, Vietnam National University, University of Bremen, Pitt in the Himalayas, Syracuse University, Semester at Sea and Tokyo Metropolitan University.