From the opening sequence, in which mid-nineteenth-century Indian fishermen hear the possibility of redemption in an old woman's madness, No Aging in India captures the reader with its interplay of story and analysis. Drawing on more than a decade of ethnographic work, Lawrence Cohen links a detailed investigation of mind and body in old age in four neighborhoods of the Indian city of Varanasi (Banaras) with events and processes around India and around the world. This compelling exploration of senility—encompassing not only the aging body but also larger cultural anxieties—combines insights from medical anthropology, psychoanalysis, and postcolonial studies. Bridging literary genres as well as geographic spaces, Cohen responds to what he sees as the impoverishment of both North American and Indian gerontologies—the one mired in ambivalence toward demented old bodies, the other insistent on a dubious morality tale of modern families breaking up and abandoning their elderly. He shifts our attention irresistibly toward how old age comes to matter in the constitution of societies and their narratives of identity and history.
Lawrence Cohen is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Program in Critical Studies of Medicine, Science, and the Body at the University of California, Berkeley.
"Beautifully written, erudite, a perfect balance between theory and ethnography. The narratives are wonderful."—E. Valentine Daniel, author of Charred Lullabies
"No book in medical anthropology matches No Aging in India in its extraordinary richness of ethnographic detail. A feast of stories, lives, and theory--it contains such a thickness of social experience that the reader feels he or she has become a part of India's local worlds. Lawrence Cohen has written one of the finest ethnographic monographs I have read. A triumph of field research and writing, this book will, I feel sure, set the standard for the next wave of ethnographies in medical anthropology."—Arthur Kleinman, author of Writing at the Margin
2003 J. I. Staley Prize, School of American Research
1999 American Ethnological Society Prize for best first book, American Ethnological Society