Dwaipayan Banerjee is an Assistant Professor of Science, Technology, and Society (STS) at MIT. He earned his doctorate in cultural anthropology at NYU and has been a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Dartmouth College. He also holds an M.Phil and an MA in sociology from the Delhi School of Economics. His research is guided by a central theme: how do different kinds of social inequity shape medical, scientific and technological practices? In turn, how do scientific and medical practice ease or sharpen such inequities?
Professor Banerjee’s first book, Keeping Time: Cancer and Pain in Contemporary India (in progress), is an ethnography of cancer in India. Keeping Time shows that cancer is above all a social disease, whose biology and experience are produced as much by India’s political economy, as it is by cellular processes within the body. Drawing from interviews, participant observation and archival work at India’s largest public health facility, Keeping Time focuses on the ethical challenges faced by a transforming health system ill equipped to bear the burden of a non-communicable epidemic. Banerjee also tell the stories of doctors, families and patients trapped in prohibitively expensive private hospitals that are meant for global tourists rather than local citizens. Finally, he describes the heroic struggles of palliative care workers who attend to dying, cancer-marked bodies in the many urban slums in and around Delhi. Across these sites Banerjee illustrates the moral conundrums of compassionate care, as it produces a rift between cures for the rich and palliated death for the poor.
Based on this research, in Markets and Molecules: A Pharmaceutical Primer from the Global South, Banerjee situates the politics of cancer treatments in a global context. He describes how global trade treaties and flows of capital have seriously constrained the Indian pharmaceutical industry’s ability to produce cheap drugs for patients across the global south. Further, in an article in Contemporary South Asia titled “Writing the disaster: substance activism after Bhopal”, Banerjee examines the tactics of a three-decade old activist movement in the aftermath of the Bhopal gas disaster. If Keeping Time draws attention to the national context of a public health system on the brink of collapse, these articles show how national science and technology polices are driven by transnational market forces.
Broadly, Banerjee’s ongoing research pushes science and technology studies into the global south. In doing so, he develops postcolonial and subaltern orientations in the scholarship on science and technology, as previous peripheries become increasingly crucial in understanding metropolitan stories about the human sciences. Rather than focusing on how science and technology diffuse out of Europe and the United States, Banerjee understands the global south as a site of scientific conceptualization.
Professor Banerjee’s research has been primarily funded by the Mellon Foundation, The Humanities Initiative at NYU, the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Social Science Research Council. He has also earned the New York Advanced Certificate in Culture and Media, and his film The Beloved Witness on the Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali was nominated for the Best Short Documentary at the New York Indo-American Film Festival.