This article demonstrates how highly-politicised assessments of agrarian distress have affected professional and public perceptions of the causes of suicide, specifically in the region of Wayanad, north-eastern Kerala. Because of a bifurcation between purely sociological and purely psychological analyses of suicide, current mental health policy downplays socio-economic factors and actively promotes specifically psychiatric analyses of victims and their families. Yet, for the sake of political representation in the public sphere, sociological analyses facilitate the construction of discursive categories relating to farmer distress.
The article shows how this has meant that the struggles of certain underprivileged groups, specifically the indigenous Paniya community, are thereby rendered invisible. Moving beyond the existing dualistic approaches, field-based research findings also demonstrate the potential to see suicide as a form of communication that provides important counter-narratives to the dominant discourse about suicides in South Asia.
- Agrarian crisis
- farmer suicides
- structural violence