Mohit’s Pharmakon: Symptom, Rotational Bodies, and Pharmaceuticals in Rural Rajasthan

Credit: Andrew McDowell


This article reexamines medical anthropology theories of symptom, illness, and disease to consider unregulated medical care in India. It builds on clinical observations, an inventory of the pharmaceuticals used by men who call themselves “Bengali doctors,” and their patients to understand medical care in a context that privileges symptom not disease. It draws on Derrida’s use of pharmakon to outline the complexities of care and embodiment and helps locate local and medical anthropology theories of symptom and pharmaceuticals within theories of the experiential body. It asks two key questions: What is medical care without disease and what are its implications on a local biology in which disease‐based biomedicine is modified? Searching for a tentative answer, it works to bring medical anthropology’s interest in symptom back to the body without losing symptoms’ connection to political economies, individual experience, and localized biomedicine.