ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Medical Garbage and the Making of Neo-liberalism in India

In the 1980s, as plastic pervaded daily life in the Indian household, so too did it saturate everyday healthcare. Following these developments, alongside other post-liberalisation regulatory reforms, in 1998 the central government published its biomedical waste (management and handling) rules. In Chennai, the implementation of the rules has simultaneously, if inadvertently, consolidated and intensified the commoditisation of biomedical waste. This paper argues that this traffic in medical garbage is not a product of neo-liberalism in India. Instead, it is through innumerable stories like this that the "Indian neo-liberal" gains meaning.

This research was supported by the JERP 5.3.3 of EU FP7 project, GARNET, the Nuffi eld Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and University of Warwick Research Leave. Sasha Handley, Gauri Raje and Caroline Proctor provided bibliographic assistance. Pritham Chakravarthy and R Anbazhagan provided research assistance in Chennai. I am grateful to all of them. Earlier drafts of the essay benefi ted from several airings in 2012: at the South Asian Governmentalities Workshop, British Academy, London; the Modern Indian History and Society Seminar, Centre for Modern Indian Studies, Georg-August-Universitat, Gottingen; and the South Asia History Seminar, SOAS, London. Barbara Harriss-White, Steve Hughes, Kama Maclean, Shirin Rai and Martha Selby provided very insightful feedback. Sarah Sexton’s bespoke seminar on speculative fi nancial strategy and feminist praxis in Delhi in 2009 inspired me to think harder.

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