Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Claire Snell-Rood's "No One Will Let Her Live"

Claire Snell-Rood is an assistant professor in behavioral science at the University of Kentucky.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, No One Will Let Her Live: Women's Struggle for Well-Being in a Delhi Slum, and reported the following:
“No one will let her live,” is what would happen if women living in slums tried to live outside of the relationships upon which they depended—that was what Neetu told me. The miserly care she received from family and neighbors, her home in a slum that the Delhi government had demolished, and the poor environment she had to endure: Neetu’s health was tied to her relationships, no matter how dependable. Research on the social production of health over the last few decades has focused on how social relationships shape health. Relationships, from the micro-scale of the family to the macro-scale of community and politics, establish the social conditions in which health is forged. The inequalities that structure these relationships have left the health of women like Neetu chronically vulnerable.

Based on 14 months of intensive fieldwork with ten families in a Delhi slum, this book argues that women respond to the inequalities that threaten their health by fostering inner wellbeing. Exploring the centrality of the moral self, this book considers how cultural strategies of resilience buoyed women’s mental health while enabling them to navigate their dubious relationships. Like Neetu, women accepted these conditions as their fate. But there were things beyond fate. What was in their hands, what God saw, the strength of their bodies, how they “got ahead,” the purity of their hearts: these were words that women used to describe what they made of themselves in spite of their dependencies.

Page 99 of this book explores one relationship crucial for women living in slums: neighborly relationships. Though public health advocates have found neighborly relationships essential to health promotion in disadvantaged communities, women explained to me that their relationships with neighbors must be carefully navigated to control their autonomy and protect their moral worth. Page 99 discusses how women controlled what others saw of their appearance in order to ensure that they control how their reputation was defined. Guarding their reputation affected everything from their safety in public to how much help they could expect from their community networks, and how they understood themselves.

The Page 99 test sinks into this book’s intimate, ethnographic heart of women’s negotiations of their relationships, revealing another side to the dynamics of social support, household health production, community advocacy, and domestic violence as they have been measured before.
Learn more about No One Will Let Her Live at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue