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Of Prisons, Tropics and Bicycles: A Conversation with David Arnold

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image of Asian Medicine

AbstractDavid Arnold who retired this year as the Professor of Asian and Global History at the University of Warwick remains one of the most prolific historians of colonial medicine and modern South Asia. A founding member of the subaltern studies collective, he is considered widely as a pioneer in the histories of colonial medicine, environment, penology, hunger and famines within South Asian studies and beyond. In this interview he recalls his formative inspirations, ideological motivations and reflects critically on his earlier works, explaining various shifts as well as mapping the possible course of future work. He talks at length about his forthcoming works on everyday technology, food and monsoon Asia. Finally, he shares with us his desire of initiating work on an ambitious project about the twin themes of poison and poverty in South Asian history, beginning with the Bengal famine in the late eighteenth century and ending with the Bhopal gas tragedy of the early 1980s. This conversation provides insights into the ways in which the field of medical history in modern South Asia has been shaped over the past three decades through interactions with broader discussions on agency, resistance, power, everydayness, subaltern studies, global and spatial histories. It hints further at the newer directions which are being opened up by such persisting intellectual entanglements.


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