Well-Being and the Self
Though researchers have remained focused on the survival of people living in poverty, the decisions through which health is lived are rarely motivated by survival alone. The introduction offers a framework to understand how—even for the most vulnerable groups—physical survival is intertwined with relational and moral well-being. The health of women living in Indian slums is diminished by enduring poverty, violence, immense caregiving responsibilities, and restricted movement. Yet social movements in contemporary India have introduced fluidity into meanings of caste, patronage, and class that offer new possibilities for self-definition and changed social conditions. Between these restrictions and opportunities, women living in urban poverty struggle to establish their well-being. Such a context requires sensitive ethnographic methods to account for nuanced definitions of health and complex researcher-interlocutor relationships. This chapter moves outward from the social conditions of health to the nervous transformations of self that shape contemporary urban India.
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