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In Session: Breathing Well: Breath, Body, and Air in India
1: Breathy Biomoral Ecologies: Breathing, Strength and Vigor in India’s Rajasthan
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
Tulane University, United States
This paper considers dam, one of the several Hindi words for breath, to examine breath’s biomoral ecology. Dam simultaneously invokes breath, power, action, and strength to describe vitality. Dam’s vital, breathy strength and action situates breathing at the pneumatic biomoral nexus of a Rajasthani village’s local moral world, its residents’ bodies, and its aerial ecology.
Dam’s vitality surpasses mere existence to enable the physical capacity to act. It interacts with the world and other people animating and imperiling the body in the process. Dam moves—called out by others, contaminated by disease, or pulled upon by clouds—in ways that bring the self and subject moments of suffering, possibility, unpredictability, and hope. Exceeding the body or subject’s control, Dam’s breathy action poses crucial questions of intentionality and requires re-thinking the bio in breath’s biomorality.
Breath’s bio is more than simply bios or bare life to be managed, propagated or killed. Breath’s bio is also biography, bodily, and biome. Dam’s vitality suggests that, though an indicator of life’s vital presence, breath subverts and overflows biopolitics and biomedical objectification. It forges ephemeral connections and breathes life and power into a geological world.