Shifting Gears: Triage and Traffic in Urban India

Chowpatty Traffic Jam. Andrew Wragg. Creative Commons License.

 

While studies of triage in clinical medical literature tend to focus on the knowledge required to carry out sorting, this article details the spatial features of triage. It is based on participation observation of traffic-related injuries in a Mumbai hospital casualty ward. It pays close attention to movement, specifically to adjustments, which include moving bodies, changes in treatment priority, and interruptions in care. The article draws on several ethnographic cases of injury and its aftermath that gather and separate patients, kin, and bystanders, all while a triage medical authority is charged with sorting them out. I argue that attention must be paid to differences in movement, which can be overlooked if medical decision-making is taken to be a static verdict. The explanatory significance of this distinction between adjustment and adjudication is a more nuanced understanding of triage as an iterative, spatial process.

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