In my PhD research, I'm looking into care provision to the elderly in Indian transnational families. I'm exploring how everyday information and communication technologies (ICT) are used to provide care to elderly parents by their children living and working abroad as nurses. What happens to care for the parents when their children migrate? How are health crisis such as stroke and accidents dealt with? And how can ICTs like mobile phones and Skype collapse, or not, the distance between family members? To tackle these and other related questions I carried out extensive fieldwork in Kerala, India, and I followed transnational families of Kerala nurses around the world.
This 4-year project has been funded through the TransGlobalHealth program, which is a part of the Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorate program of the European Commission, and the Health, Care and the Body Programme Group at the Amsterdam Institute of Sociel Science Research (AISSR), UvA. My promotor is Prof. Dr. Jeannette Pols, and my co-supervisors are Dr. Kasturi Sen from Wolfson College at the University of Oxford, and Prof. Dr. Koen Peeters from the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium.
For a paper based on this research, entitled “Only near is dear? Doing elderly care with everyday ICTs in Indian transnational families”, I received the 2016 Graduate Student Paper Prize, awarded by Science, Technology and Medicine special interest group of the Society of Medical Anthropology at the American Anthropological Association.
For a glimpse into this research, read my blog post #Aging and #Technology: Whose Concerns?
Most of my research interests have been related to telemedicine, e-health, m-health, online health forums and the impact of the Internet on the relationship between patients and health practitioners. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to observe the making (and failing) of telemedicine in Slovenia, and later on I realized one of the problems of implementation might be in the top-to-bottom approach (my PhD project is therefore going the other way). To encourage the interest of anthropologists in telemedicine, e-health and m-health, Prof. Mark Nichter and I started a Critical Anthropology for Global Health (CAGH) Takes a Stand initiative (CAGH is a Special Interest Group of the Society of Medical Anthropologists at the American Anthropological Assocation). With Dr. Victor Braitberg, we also organized a double panel on the topic at the AAA 2013 meeting, entitled The (In)equalities of global health: E-health and Telemedicine through the Lens of Critical Medical Anthropology.
In my MA thesis (Health and Society in South Asia, Heidelberg University), I wrote about a girl I met in Uttarakhand, North India, during my volunteer internship at a local health-oriented NGO. She had trouble eating, and as our friendship grew, so did my wish to understand what was happening to her (I wrote about this in the article Of Food and Friendship: The Methods to Understanding Eating Disorders in India, published in Medische Anthropologie, 2012). After 3 months of fieldwork and a lot of other research, I realized that my friend's condition had little to do with the thin ideal, so commonly associated with anorexia. In my thesis, I suggested this girl's eating problems were rather related to the way in which, in the Hindu worldview, personal identity is shaped through sharing of food and place - a process that had been interrupted for my friend by the larger forces of 'development' and 'progress' sweeping over rural India.