Everyone must breathe to live, but the truism of this maxim is continuously disrupted, whether due to environmental concerns around poor air quality or the recent Covid-19 pandemic which has foregrounded breathing well as a marker of good health. The notion of breath invites us to make visible, the connections between humans and the material worlds around them. This panel aims to interrogate the political, moral and epistemological implications of such intimate connections through breath, and more broadly, the triad of breath, body and air. Insofar as breath is crucial to individual lives, it pushes us to reconceptualise the body as a breathing body. What does it mean to think of the material body in terms of breath that constantly escapes it? Given that breath is a complex matrix of the inside and the outside, it also invites us to take seriously the air in and around the body. Attention to air quality and its effects on the body have led to heightened focus on breath as a connecting link between humans and their environments. Drawing on anthropological approaches to biomedicine, air politics, and epistemologies of the body, panelists will examine the power and vitality of breath across multiple contexts. That said, while breath is understood variously across different contexts, it insists on universality - after all, breath affects everyone. Paying attention to the simultaneous universality and polysemy of breath, this panel offers breath as a conceptual category for anthropological and sociological scholarship in and on contemporary life in India.
Paper Presenter: Andrew McDowell – Tulane University
Paper Presenter: Tuhina Ganguly – Shiv Nadar University
Paper Presenter: Vasundhara Bhojvaid – Shiv Nadar University