Bharat Venkat

At the Limits of Cure

September 15, 12:00 PM

Can a history of cure be more than a history of how disease comes to an end? In 1950s Madras, an international team of researchers demonstrated that antibiotics were effective in treating tuberculosis. But just half a century later, reports out of Mumbai stoked fears about the spread of totally drug-resistant strains of the disease. Had the curable become incurable? Through an anthropological history of tuberculosis treatment in India, I examine what it means to be cured, and what it means for a cure to come undone. Drawing on my book, At the Limits of Cure (Duke University Press, 2021), this talk tells a story that stretches from the colonial period—a time of sanatoria, travel cures, and gold therapy—into a postcolonial present marked by antibiotic miracles and their failures. In this talk, I’ll juxtapose the unraveling of cure across a variety of sites: in idyllic hill stations and crowded prisons, aboard ships and on the battlefield, and through research trials and clinical encounters. If cure is frequently taken as an ending (of illness, treatment, and suffering more generally), my aim is to provide a foundation for imagining cure otherwise in a world of fading antibiotic efficacy.


About the Speaker

Dr. Bharat Venkat

Dr. Bharat Jayram Venkat is an assistant professor at UCLA’s Institute for Society & Genetics with a joint appointment in the Department of History. His first book, At the Limits of Cure (Duke University Press, 2021), was the winner of the Joseph W. Elder Prize in the Indian Social Sciences. His current work focuses on the experience of thermal inequality in contemporary India and the United States, as well as the history of studying heat and its effects over the long twentieth century. This research has been funded by the George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation Fellowship, the UC President’s Faculty Research Fellowship in the Humanities, and the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award. Dr. Venkat is also the director of the UCLA Heat Lab.