Workshop 4



  • Prof. V. Sujatha

(Centre for the Study of Social Systems, JNU, New Delhi)

  • Prof. Madhu Nagla

(Department of Sociology, Maharishi Dayanand University, Rohtak, Haryana)


Invited Tutors:

  • Prof. Ritu Priya

(Centre for Community Health and Social Medicine, JNU, New Delhi)

  • Prof. Leena Abraham

(Centre for Studies in Education, TISS, Mumbai)

  • Prof. V.R. Muraleedharan

(Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT, Chennai)


‘Health is perhaps the most crucial aspect of human well-being,’ said Amartya Sen. The health of the population is a critical measure of a nation’s performance, because the health status of a nation tells us a lot about how its political, economic and social institutions are doing and is hence an inevitable part of public policy and economic analysis of any nation. While measuring health status through standard indicators across geographical, cultural and economic boundaries is one issue, treating women’s health status as an indicator of the general health status of a population is another. Besides, the fact that the parameters of health are at times found to be at odds with the indicators of social equality and freedom highlights the need for contextualization of statistical measures. For instance, studies in gender and health often point to the fact that increased income and labour force participation of women in wage labour and blue collar occupations does not necessarily produce better health for them; in fact may lead to adverse health outcomes for some as in the case of migrant women. Thus statistical parameters of various phenomena under study may present divergent picture as the existential situation on the ground is more complicated than any one measure can assess. Hence we need approaches that are sensitive to historical and social context in order to grasp the multiple dimensions of human health and wellbeing. Also at stake here is the question of how to conceptualise both, health and well being (the objective and subjective aspects) at the same time and how to assess the relevance of divergent factors associated with them, especially in a societies that are undergoing rapid change.

Health is connected to medicine as a profession and the social role and authority of the medical profession could be discerned among other things, from their ability to influence popular conceptions and practices of health. What happens when there is more than one system of medicine in the public arena? How do we assess effectiveness when state sponsored systems of medicine like biomedicine coexist with systems of medicine like homeopathy, unani, siddha and ayurveda and other local health traditions outside state services but with popular support? Is efficacy a purely clinical phenomenon? These are questions not only of conceptualizing medical care, but also of assessing the efficacy of medicine in a situation of medical pluralism. Drawing upon historical, anthropological research, these questions broaden our understanding of public health policy and take us into the latest and emerging social approaches in the study of medical pluralism.

The aims of Workshop 4 on ‘Transformations in health and medicine: Conceptualisation and assessment in the social sciences’ are: To expose participants to the new social approaches in the social studies of health and medicine, going beyond official data and conventional policy analysis; secondly, to engage critically with methodologies in the assessment of health transitions and in the study of the efficacy of medicine. Thirdly, the workshop would suggest guidelines for the use of mixed methodologies in the study of health and medicine.

Readings and online resources:

Adams Vincanne and Fei-Fei li (2008), ‘Integration or Erasure? Modernizing medicine at Lhasa’s Mentsikhang’, in Laurent Pordie (Ed.), Tibetan Medicine in the Contemporary World: Global Politics Of Medical knowledge and practice, London: Routledge Taylor And Francis group, pp. 105-131.

Daly Jeanne (1989), ‘Innocent Murmurs: Echocardiography and the Diagnosis of Cardiac Normality’, Sociology of Health an Illness, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp. 99-116.

Green, Judith and Nicki Thorogood (2014), Qualitative Methods for Health Research, London: Sage Publications.

Harter, Lynn. M, Phyllis M. Japp and Christina (2005), Narratives, Health and Healing: Communication Theory, Research and Practice, London: Routledge Communication Series.

Hurwitz and Brian and Trsha Greenhalgh and Videa Skultans (2008), Narrative Research in Health and Illness, BMJ: Blackwell Publishing.

Jeffery Roger and Patricia M Jeffery (1993), ‘Traditional Birth Attendants in Rural North India: The social Organization Of Childbearing’, in Lindenbaum and Margaret Lock (Eds.), Knowledge, power, and Practice: The Anthropology Of Medicine And Everyday Life, Berkeley: University of California press, pp. 7-31.

Koenig A. Barbara (1988), ‘The Technological Imperative In Medical Practice: The Social Creation of a “Routine” Treatment’, in Lock Margaret and Deborah Gordon (Eds.), Biomedicine Examined, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 465-496.

Nagla, Madhu (2013), Gender and Health, Jaipur: Rawat Publications.

Nagla, Madhu (Ed.) (2014), Sociology of Health, in I.P. Modi (Series Ed.), Readings in Indian Sociology: Sociology of Health, Volume 4, New Delhi: Sage Publications.

Overcash, Janine A. (2003), ‘Narrative Research: A Review of Methodology and Relevance to Clinical practice’, Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology, Volume 48, Issue 2, November pp. 179-184.

Ram, Kalpana (2011), ‘Culture, power and lay medicine’, in Doron Assa and Broom Alex (Eds.) Health, Culture and Religion in South Asia, London: Routledge. pp. 7-20.

Sriratanaban, Pavika (2014), ‘Motherhood Fatal Illness Narratives: Death Awareness and Biographical Reinforcement to Restore Continuity’, paper presented in ISA Conference at Yokohama, Japan.

Sharf, F., Barbara and Marsha L. Vanderford (2008), ‘Illness Narratives and Social Construction of Health’, in Teresa L. et al. (Eds.), Handbook of Health Communication, London: Routledge.

Sujatha.V and Leena Abraham (Eds.) (2012), Medical pluralism in contemporary India, New Delhi: Orient Black Swan.

Sujatha.V. (2014), Sociology of Health and Medicine. New Perspectives, New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Zarconi, Joseph, Lura L. Pethtel (2008), Narratives in Health Care: Healing Patients, Practitioners, Profession and Community, Radcliffe Publishing.

Methodological approaches in social sciences