Photo by Tony RinaldoPhoto by Tony Rinaldo
ACLS Frederick Burkhardt Fellow
Tufts University
Hysteria in India: The Transnational History of a Medical Idea

Sarah Pinto is a sociocultural anthropologist at Tufts University with interests in gender, subjectivity, and the social life of medical practice. Her most recent work, an ethnography of gendered components of psychiatric care in India, traces women’s movements through different settings of care—homes, wards, and clinics—and overlapping breakdowns in minds, kinship, and stories. Reconsidering languages used to address ethical crises in global medicine, it locates “dissolution” as an orienting idea in understanding relationships among love, illness, and healing.

Pinto’s work explores the transnational history of the medical disorder “hysteria,” looking in particular at hysteria’s development and transformations in India, a setting in which it has maintained a long and rich presence. Tracing hysteria from early Ayurvedic texts to contemporary clinics and asking how it has taken shape as a medical diagnosis, scientific fact, gendered form of distress, and cultural idea, she asks what hysteria’s non-Western history tells us about the movability and multiplicity of medicine. She proposes in particular that hysteria’s Indian history destabilizes concepts of “universal” and “particular” that are foundational to scientific knowledge.

Pinto received her BA in anthropology at Bryn Mawr College in 1996 and her PhD in anthropology from Princeton University in 2003. Her dissertation on childbirth and child loss in rural north India received a 2003 Sardar Patel Award for the best dissertation on modern India, and she was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School from 2003 to 2005.

2013–2014 Radcliffe Institute Fellows

This information is accurate as of the fellowship year indicated for each fellow.
Photo by Tony Rinaldo