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Vita

Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment, Updated with a New Afterword and Photo Essay

João Biehl (Author), Torben Eskerod (Photographer)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 456 pages
ISBN: 9780520272958
October 2013
$29.95, £19.95
Other Formats Available:
Zones of social abandonment are emerging everywhere in Brazil’s big cities—places like Vita, where the unwanted, the mentally ill, the sick, and the homeless are left to die. This haunting, unforgettable story centers on a young woman named Catarina, increasingly paralyzed and said to be mad, living out her time at Vita. Anthropologist João Biehl leads a detective-like journey to know Catarina; to unravel the cryptic, poetic words that are part of the “dictionary” she is compiling; and to trace the complex network of family, medicine, state, and economy in which her abandonment and pathology took form.

An instant classic, Vita has been widely acclaimed for its bold fieldwork, theoretical innovation, and literary force. Reflecting on how Catarina’s life story continues, this updated edition offers the reader a powerful new afterword and gripping new photographs following Biehl and Eskerod’s return to Vita. Anthropology at its finest, Vita is essential reading for anyone who is grappling with how to understand the conditions of life, thought, and ethics in the contemporary world.

Introduction: “Dead Alive, Dead Outside, Alive Inside”

PART ONE. VITA
A Zone of Social Abandonment
Brazil
Citizenship

PART TWO. CATARINA AND THE ALPHABET
The Life of the Mind
A Society of Bodies
Inequality
Ex-Human
The House and the Animal
“Love is the illusion of the abandoned”
Social Psychosis
An Illness of Time
God, Sex, and Agency

PART THREE. THE MEDICAL ARCHIVE
Public Psychiatry
Her Life as a Typical Patient
Democratization and the Right to Health
Economic Change and Mental Suffering
Medical Science
End of a Life
Voices
Care and Exclusion
Migration and Model Policies
Women, Poverty, and Social Death
“I am like this because of life”
The Sense of Symptoms
Pharmaceutical Being

PART FOUR. THE FAMILY
Ties
Ataxia
Her House
Brothers
Children, In-Laws, and the Ex-Husband
Adoptive Parents
"To want my body as a medication, my body"
Everyday Violence

PART FIVE. BIOLOGY AND ETHICS
Pain
Human Rights
Value Systems
Gene Expression and Social Abandonment
Family Tree
A Genetic Population
A Lost Chance

PART SIX. THE DICTIONARY
“Underneath was this, which I do not attempt to name”
Book I
Book II
Book III
Book IV
Book V
Book VI
Book VII
Book VIII
Book IX
Book X
Book XI
Book XII
Book XIII
Book XIV
Book XV
Book XVI
Book XVII
Book XVIII
Book XIX
Conclusion: “A way to the words”
Postscript: “I am part of the origins, not just of language, but of people”

Afterword
Return to Vita

Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index
João Biehl is Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University. His website is www.joaobiehl.net. Torben Eskerod is an artist and works as a freelance photographer in Copenhagen.
“Reads, in the best of ethnographic fashion, like a mystery thriller.”—Journal Of The Royal Anthropological Inst
"João Biehl's Vita is a greatly arresting work. The tale of Catarina is one that haunts the reader. This book's central character is sure to become an anthropological classic, her humanity reaffirmed by the author."—Arthur Kleinman, author of Writing at the Margin: Discourse between Anthropology and Medicine

J.I. Staley Prize, School for Advanced Research

Margaret Mead Award, Society for Applied Anthropology

Leeds Award in Urban Anthropology, Society for Urban, National, and Transnational/Global Anthropology

Benjamin L. Hooks Outstanding Book Award, Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change

Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing, Society for Humanistic Anthropology

Stirling Prize for Best Published Work in Psychological Anthropology, Society for Psychological Anthropology

Eileen Basker Memorial Prize, Society for Medical Anthropology

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