Cancer and Conjugality in Contemporary Delhi: Mediating Life between Violence and Care


This article tracks the entanglement of cancer and patterns of conjugality in Delhi. Building on fieldwork with about 120 households in Delhi, it describes how the disease put pressure on already fraught marital biographies, revealing durable fissures in household relations. Often, these shifts in the distribution of conjugal vulnerability opened cracks that allowed long histories of domestic violence to seep through. In subtle ways, women could accrue a delicate agency through their practices of care. But at the same time, they continued to inhabit the vulnerable space of affinal homes. This article describes how in these arrangements, care and violence followed each other closely in their tracks. Building on these insights, the article deepens and shifts how anthropologists have understood the social life of the cancer. Specifically, anthropologists writing about the disease have demonstrated the ubiquity of a biotechnical imaginary of hope and survivorship in the Global North. This article develops an anthropology of cancer from the Global South that takes seriously the work of palliation and reconciliation, in the process provincializing Global North imaginaries of hope and survivorship.