To Do Nothing

Revising Good Aging and Reviving Pre-toxic Pasts at a Kerala Nature Cure Home

In: Asian Medicine
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  • 1 University of TorontoToronto, ONCanada
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In Kerala, South India, individual pursuits of nature cure (prakr̥ti cikitsa) invoke ethical narratives about an idealized purer past, contrasting a dangerous present saturated with social and environmental toxins. While first popularized in India by M. K. Gandhi, nature cure has gained contemporary fame as a low-cost intervention for Kerala’s purported health crisis: chronic lifestyle diseases. Nonprofessionalized natural healers identify as public health activists, teaching predominantly urban, middle-class patients how to revive local lifeways of self-doctorhood. This article narrates how two aging patients internalize their naturopathic doctors’ advice to detoxify and “do nothing” rather than strive for biomedical cure. By naturally revitalizing their bodies, they cultivate feelings of intense independence and ecological attachment that reconfigure experiences of migrated-kin isolation. In counterpoint to literature that frames biopolitical and medical discourses as causally producing moral subjectivities, this article demonstrates how persons agentively craft counternormative, vitalistic models of aging and health, contributing to broader localist imaginaries of reviving pre-toxic lifeways.

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