Regimes of Pain: Access to Morphine and the Geopolitics of Palliation in Pakistan

Monday November 27, 2023
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM

This talk addresses how the pain of advanced cancer is sustained in Pakistan by militarized apparatuses of narcotics control in the War on Drugs, as well as by a national regime of rigid price ceilings. It draws on ethnographic research to show how these regimes of control—reimagined as ‘regimes of pain’—render morphine, a cheap, effective opioid pain reliever, scarce in hospitals. Ironically, heroin, morphine’s illegal derivative, proliferates in illicit circuits in Pakistan, which is a conduit in flows of heroin from Afghanistan to the West. Morphine scarcity propels desperate families, confronting loved ones in agonizing pain, into the illicit realm in search of heroin. The talk argues for extending the analytic gaze on pain and palliation beyond the body and the clinic, the sites at which they are usually studied. Instead, it implicates institutional apparatuses rooted in Western imperialism in the perpetuation of end-of-life pain. Foregrounding the geopolitics of palliation, it inscribes oppressive narcotics and price control regimes with their devastating effects: the ‘legal-bureaucratic sustenance’ of unpalliated cancer pain.

The UBC South Asia Research Colloquium offers a forum for specialists in South Asia to share their research in front of an interdisciplinary audience. This seminar features speaker Zahra Hayat (University of British Columbia, Anthropology).

Date & Time:
Monday, November 27, 2023 | 12:30-2:00 PM (PT)

UBC Asian Centre, Room 604, 1871 West Mall, Vancouver

Hosted by the Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia, this event is open to the public.
Registration is required (please find the registration form above).