In October this year, I’m travelling to India to find out what “medical tourism” is all about. You may now have visions of me in surgical robes, nervously waiting to be anaesthetised, but no, this isn’t a kind of “method acting” in poetry.
Asialink (along with the Australia Council for the Arts and the Australia-India Council) have been generous enough to grant me a 3-month literature residency, based at the University of Madras. This is an opportunity to draw together into poetry two themes that have long fascinated me – the human body and how we experience it, and India – the interplay of ancient tradition and globalised entrepreneurialism, as well as its vigorous energy and sheer complexity.
My plan is to write portrait poems of people who are in some way involved in what is commonly called “medical tourism” – the travel of patients outside their home country to access medical treatment. This treatment ranges from cardiac surgery to dental work, orthopedic surgery to reproductive technology, gender reassignment surgery. They travel for many reasons – personal, legal, technological and/or financial (to obtain treatment that is too expensive at home). There’s a huge and growing amount of literature on the broad social impact of this very complex phenomenon, but very little in terms of personal stories.
I’m interested in talking with doctors, nurses, cleaners, and other ancillary staff, but also with patients and their families – both Indian and non-Indian. I’m also interested in talking with people who may have had experiences with the medical systems of other countries – Thailand, Malaysia, South Africa, for example. How do two cultures interact around one human body? What are the emotions, contingencies, complications, victories, insights and relationships that are brought up?
If you or someone you know is planning to travel to India any time between October 2011 and January 2012, please contact me through this blog. Any comments on my project, suggestions for reading or other contacts are also very welcome.
Congratulations on your Asialink residency. I recently returned from my own Asialink residency in Japan and had a really fruitful time.
What a great topic for your residency. I really look forward to reading any published works that result.
I don’t have any leads relating to medical tourism in India but if you become interested in making any parallels to the experiences of transgender people who go to Thailand for surgery, I know of some people with personal experience of this.
Thanks Tom. Your project sounded fascinating and totally makes sense in terms of what next after “Look who’s morphing”. Glad to hear your time went well.
Absolutely interested in chatting with people who’ve travelled for that reason – a few poems in my last book dealt with gender and sexuality, and it’s certainly an element of what I’m interested in (though my focus is India). If you don’t have my email, maybe message me via farcebook… Cheers!
Would you be up for emailing me a little blurb that’s a bit more specific to medical tourism for the purposes of gender transition? I could then forward it onto various people I know, as well as some transgender email lists. Even just a version of your blog post with an additional sentence would do. India is not known as a place for surgeries for gender transition but I know of people who have travelled to Thailand, the US and other countries for such surgeries.
PS I do remember reading some poems in your book about gender and sexuality. I though your book was excellent, by the way. So did my partner!
Absolutely (& thanks re the book!). Will email soon.
Sounds fantastic, best of luck.