Instituttseminar: Gauri Pathak "Afflicted Modernity: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome in Globalizing India"

Welcome to a lecture by Gauri Sanjeev Pathak, assistant professor at the University of Aarhus, Denmark.

After the seminar, coffee and snacks are served in our lunch room. The event is open to all, no registration required.

Lecture abstract:

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), an endocrine disorder with no known cure that compromises fertility, is a lifestyle disease affecting a growing number of urban middle-class Indian women. Linked to type II diabetes risk, PCOS is the leading cause of female infertility worldwide, but the syndrome has received scant attention in the social science literature. There is also a paucity of clear epidemiological studies on PCOS in India, but media accounts and medical practitioners have noted a recent rise in cases in urban India and attribute it to “Westernization,” modernization, disrupted circadian rhythms, stress, and lifestyle changes following on the heels of neoliberal reforms beginning in 1991, which opened up the country to processes of globalization. Women with PCOS are thus at once emblematic of the risks of rapid sociocultural and political–economic change, and individualized embodiments of the biosocial stresses caused by such change. In this presentation, I investigate PCOS as an emerging women’s health problem in India. Whereas most research on the effects of structural vulnerabilities on health has centered on members of economically and otherwise disadvantaged groups, I use PCOS as a lens into structural vulnerabilities that are not necessarily linked to a marginalized socioeconomic status to examine the health pressures of globalization and the stresses of conforming to “modern lifestyles.” I also argue that even though the syndrome (through its effects on fertility and appearance) poses a challenge to women’s traditional roles as wives and mothers, rapid sociocultural change and medical technology provide women with potential for new identities. Their aspirations are therefore simultaneously aided and constrained by the sociocultural changes that make them vulnerable to PCOS.


Gauri Pathak received her Ph.D. from the School of Anthropology, University of Arizona, with a specialization in sociocultural and medical anthropology. In her dissertation, Pathak investigates aspects of public discourses about the PCOS ovary syndrome and lived realities of the syndrome in India, as a lens into the interaction of processes of globalization with the local socio-culturally embedded body.

In 2016, Pathak received the Homi Bhabha Fellowship. Pathak’s fellowship will support a project examining human–plastic entanglements and their effects on human and ecological health in urban India.

As of August 2016, Gauri Pathak is a CAS member at Department of Global Studies, University of Aarhus. Her research focuses on the intersections between consumption, the body, and health in globalizing urban India, especially the changing relationship between the body and subjectivity in India after economic liberalization.

Besides publishing widely on PCOS syndrome, Pathak has also written an article on the dabbawalas of Mumbai. List of publications

Seminar contact: Keir James Cecil Martin

Publisert 5. jan. 2017 14:15 - Sist endret 21. feb. 2017 13:04