When you picture ‘new urban multiculture’ what kinds of spaces do you envision? What can we learn about a city from its spaces of dying? Next in our line up of plenary speakers is Dr Yasmin Gunaratnam, a Reader in Sociology at Goldsmiths. In her outstanding book Death and the Migrant, Yasmin writes about the coming together of migration histories and end of life care in experiences of transnational dying. Her work examines the pain of racism and the possibilities of care in moments of interaction and negotiation at the borders of bodies, and of life and death. Yasmin’s work and her focus on these intimate moments serve as a reminder that encounters between and across difference do not only happen in the street but on the ward and in the bedroom. And that what happens in spaces of care can resonate with other forms of social pain. She writes:
‘[S]ome of the ways in which the felt injustices of diagnostic care can resonate with the injuries of class and racism, producing a layered distress. Mita’s story is about an Indian Hindu patient with terminal cancer. The man’s cancer had been repeatedly misdiagnosed leaving him feeling angry and distressed. The patient had been a teacher in India and on settlement in the UK could not get a teaching job, and so had worked in factories and as a bus driver. Here is Mita’s story:
I think it (his feelings of being discriminated against (in employment) had an impact on how he dealt with his condition, because unfortunately his diagnosis had been quite delayed. For a year he’d been going backwards and forwards to the GP, telling him all the classic symptoms of what he’d got… he still had this idea and he said “I know I’m educated and I know I’m completely in the wrong box. I think they haven’t treated me properly because I am who I am, because saying I was only good enough for bus driving, not for teaching and for the same reason they didn’t think I was important enough to be diagnosed early enough to be treated in the right way.” And I found that very hard.’
In order to convey these embodied stories of care and of pain, Yasmin uses many different ways of telling, including drawing on her skills as a poet. You can hear a reading of one of these ‘The Prince and the Pea’ here.
Yasmin does not only experiment with different ways of telling but also different ways of doing ethnography. For example, the Every minute of every day project examined the relationship between the Richard House hospice and Newham through the use of a live sensory team ethnography.