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Unforgotten: Love and the Culture of Dementia Care in India

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Volume 2

Life Course, Culture and Aging: Global Transformations

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Love and the Culture of Dementia Care in India

Bianca Brijnath

240 pages, 11 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-354-3 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (July 2014)

eISBN 978-1-78238-355-0 eBook


View CartYour country: - edit Buy the eBook from these vendorsRequest a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


Unforgotten is a beautiful ethnography of how families in India are caring for relatives with dementia… an unforgettable contribution to the anthropologies of dementia, care, ageing, and medicine.” · Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

“The ethnography offers vivid, detailed portraits while also placing individual families within larger trends and contexts, such as the demographic transformation of India’s population structure and the country’s struggle to deliver adequate healthcare to all of its citizens… Brijnath has created a strong and compelling volume that draws readers humorously and respectfully into the lives of her subjects. In this rich ethnography, readers get to know an array of informants whose stories populate multiple chapters, unifying the flow of the work and creating a deep sense of intimacy between the reader, the author, the caregivers, and the patients.” · South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies

“Using the lens of critical and sensory anthropology, this ethnography [by Bianca Brijnath] is an invaluable contribution to previous monographs on aging in India. With this work, Brijnath proves that ethnography can be both science and art, and can at the same time transcend the walls of academia to serve more practical causes. A rare combination that is a step forward for academia, and for humanity.” · Somatosphere.net

“Bianca Brijnath’s elaborately written ethnography, Unforgotten, is a valuable contribution to the literature on dementia care in India as well as to medical anthropology and aging studies in South Asia. Primarily focusing on urban middle-class families who provide care for their relatives, the study elucidates both challenging and valued aspects of domestic and professional elder care for dementia patients in India… Brijnath’s rich ethnographic material illustrates these close observations and makes her study an important contribution to the still largely Western-centered research on dementia.” · Transcultural Psychiatry

“Brijnath’s writing style is so fluid and readable that her book will appeal to academics, medical students, and the general public.” · Anthropology & Aging

“[This] monograph provides a highly readable and wonderfully rich account of an exploratory study into family care in India…The book as a whole provides an excellent example of… the continuing value of monographs. The author cleverly weaves essential information about methods, recruitment and ethics into a rich story of family care in India.” · Sociology of Health & Illness

“Bianca Brijnath has written a beautiful book with Unforgotten… By weaving together the journeys of anthropological research and those of her informants in the style of a Bollywood masala – ‘productions… [that] incorporate romance, drama, action, comedy and tragedy… [in which the] linearity of the story is unimportant [and] there are frequent interruptions for songs, subplots and audience intermissions’ (158) – her aim that readers ‘smell the writing’ (36) is fulfilled.” · Contemporary South Asia

“…this is an eloquent book for those who wish to understand the lives of dementia patients and their caregivers, and it is a fine, scholarly piece of anthropological work that also makes a contribution to the public health domain.“ · American Anthropologist

“This is a superb study, one of the most exciting, original, perceptive and engrossing books I have read in India studies and aging studies in some time... One of the most attractive features of it is its eloquent, often poetic, writing style that draws the reader in from the first pages through to the end.” · Sarah Lamb, Brandeis University

“…a deeply humane account of the disparate experiences of middle class Indian families in Delhi – in their homes, public spaces and medical facilities – as they care for older family members with dementia. The gender, class and health inequities of daily life and the cultural ideal of seva (respect and service to family elders) resonate through these experiences of hope and despair, love and frustration, stigma and silence.” · Maria G. Cattell, The Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago


As life expectancy increases in India, the number of people living with dementia will also rise. Yet little is known about how people in India cope with dementia, how relationships and identities change through illness and loss. In addressing this question, this book offers a rich ethnographic account of how middle-class families in urban India care for their relatives with dementia. From the husband who wakes up at 3 am to feed his wife ice-cream to the daughters who gave up employment for seven years to care for their mother with dementia, this book illuminates the local idioms on dementia and aging, the personal experience of care-giving, the functioning of stigma in daily life, and the social and cultural barriers in accessing support.

Bianca Brijnath is a NHMRC Early Career Fellow in the Department of General Practice, Monash University, Australia. She is a researcher in medical anthropology, public health and primary health care. Her areas of interest include cross-cultural meanings of mental health and care and her field sites include India and Australia. 

Subject: Medical Anthropology
Area: Asia


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