Siting the Body: Perspectives on Health and Medicine in Colonial Orissa
'In Oriya they call it daktarakhan In Hindi haspatal
Whatever its name it really means death.'
(A Ho song)
This paper seeks to explore various dimensions associated with health and medicine in colonial Orissa, which is a largely ignored region. The existing scholarship focuses on the army, colonial policy, urban municipal issues, the non-tribal communities and the colonial interventions in a rather general way for the entire south Asian region, though there seems to be a shift towards region-based studies to unravel the specificities and diversities.1 However, indigenous communities continue to remain at the periphery of the existing scholarship.
The attempt here is to take up the comparatively ignored indigenous tribal communities of Orissa.2 This paper is composed of two sections. The first section begins by delineating how the indigenous people related to issues centered around these questions, against a canvas of social history. Obviously it does not see indigenous cultures as autonomously generating their own ideas, notions and solutions, independent of the non-tribal communities and colonialism.3 Instead, it highlights areas of contestations as well as the acceptance of the colonial power/knowledge system. Perhaps more importantly it also projects a process that seems to have eluded social historians - namely, the highly complex phenomenon of Hinduisation of tribal communities. This implied an acceptance as well as a rejection of various features of non-tribals. This co-existed with a contestory aspect
* Department of History, Venkateswara College, Delhi University, Delhi.
Social Scientist, Vol. 28, Nos. 11-12 Nov. - Dec. J998