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

Welcome to a lecture and discussion on the topic: "Afflicted Modernity: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome in Globalizing India". Associate professor Gauri Pathak, University of Århus. 

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

Gauri Pathak

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.

Seminar contact: Keir James Cecil Martin

Published Feb. 2, 2017 9:54 PM - Last modified Feb. 7, 2017 10:39 AM