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Against All Odds

Against All Odds
Psychosocial Distress and Healing among Women

January 2019 | 276 pages | SAGE Publications Pvt. Ltd

Against All Odds: Psychosocial Distress and Healing among Women uses vivid ethnographic narratives to study linkages between socio-economic conditions and the mental health of women living in low-income neighbourhoods of big cities. After presenting anthropological insights related to the understanding of madness, mental health and mental illness, the author illustrates how the social position of women and factors inherent in urbanism have an impact on the level of psychosocial distress they experience. The book further explores the increasing medicalization of social problems whereby instead of actual problems being addressed, women get 'treated'.

Nayar also takes stock of the different kinds of local ‘healing’ processes sought by women, and examines how the women’s movement and cultural ways of healing have helped women in reducing the distress and violence in their everyday lives. Drawing from the author’s ethnographic research in Delhi, the book offers a vital exploration of the interactions between individuals and systems, and argues that an equitable society is what is required to reduce psychosocial distress. This timely book that cuts across disciplinary locations will be of interest to scholars of gender studies, psychology and psychotherapy, social work and anthropology.

Introduction: So What Is Abnormal?
Culture, Context and Distress
Finding a Way through the Labyrinth
Deconstructing Madness: Possession and Pains
Women, Social Structure and Distress
Learning to Live Alone: Paisa, Bimari aur Jinn
Conclusion: Pathways to Health and Healing
Key features

·         Based on extensive ethnographic research, this book explores linkages between socio-cultural, political and economic conditions of a low-income neighbourhood in a big city and the lives and mental health of women residents.

·         The research builds on the idea that everyday distress is changing with changing socio-economic realities. The medicalization of everyday stressors has led to increased drug use in general, but this is specifically impacting women.


·         The author explores how structural problems are disguised as individual problems leading to individuals, particularly women, being ‘treated’.


·         A must read for therapists and activists working with women and girls in low-income neighbourhoods.

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ISBN: 9789353281915