M.D., Ph.D. student, Stanford University
Thesis Title: Madness as a Language and a Language for Madness: Readings of Indian Literature
What Now: I am an MD/PhD Candidate at Stanford University in my sixth year. I am pursuing a PhD in Anthropology where I study violence against women in India. In 2013, I was awarded a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship to support this work.
What Next: After I complete my dual degree in Anthropology and Medicine, I hope to complete residency, likely in Internal Medicine, while continuing to write and pursue research in anthropology and global women’s health.
Follow Me: @amrapalimaitra (Twitter); amaitra.com
When I began my studies in the Postcolonial field of History & Literature, I hoped for a deeper understanding of global dynamics of gender, culture, and power. My courses offered incredible geographical and temporal breadth, with works as diverse as Valmiki’s Ramayana, Shakespeare’s tragedies, diaries by the first female colonial explorers, oral histories from South Asia’s Partition of 1947, critical feminist theory, health studies on the AIDS epidemic, and music videos by Third World hip-hop artists. I grew to love the various ways in which postcolonial texts are adaptations, revisions, and conglomerations; I quickly learned to challenge the very meaning and significance of “postcolonial” as a category.
I had long wanted to be a doctor; however, it was only through History & Literature that I gained an appreciation for the complex and embedded systems of culture, society, labor, and domestic life through which we might understand illness, the pursuit of health, and our own bodies. My coursework and mentorship forever changed my approach to medicine and towards my patients—people, like texts, bring to bear embodied histories and cultures to the clinical setting, ones to which I am now far more attuned.
In medical school, I felt that my professional training would be complemented by a deeper investigation of the intersection of health and social justice, especially as it pertains to experiences of gendered violence in South Asia. So, I decided to pursue a PhD in Anthropology. While I hadn’t previously studied Anthropology, History & Literature prepared me to think about the social and historical framing of a text, to understand trends in Western social theory as well as to engage often-sidelined voices of scholars and activists from the global South, and to think more broadly beyond the written word into the realms of theatre, sound, and bodily performance. Most importantly, my training in close-reading and in critical analysis which I developed in writing my senior thesis continues to serve me well as I craft my dissertation.
I’m immensely grateful for my undergraduate experience and the journey it has sparked for me, and I hope to maintain a lifelong involvement of service and academic inquiry with South Asia.