As the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic engulfs the nation, the faultlines in our healthcare system have become ever so obvious. In the past year, healthcare workers, particularly doctors, were lauded by the government for their efforts and even described as COVID-warriors. This masculine framing of the healthcare response as “war” has only served to forget and erase the women—nurses, nursing attendants, ASHAs, anganwadi workers—who are truly at the forefront of the COVID response, engaged in labour-intensive care work.
But this trend of invisibilising marginalised women is not new.
The Third Eye’s new series, Back Story, breaks down research, praxis, and lesser-know insights for a wider, non-academic audience, to help us all make sense of the world with a little more wonder, a little more depth.
In Episode 1, we meet Panchali Ray, author of Politics of Precarity, who spent years with nurses and nursing attendants on their night shift in Kolkata hospitals and nursing homes. Ray traces the history of the nursing profession in India right from colonial archives to the present day—a feminine workforce on the margins of ‘respectability,’ a caste nexus that insists on defining everything from labour to uniforms, a neoliberal system that strengthens casteist practices in the name of efficiency.
Watch the video to see how nursing as a profession in India has been shaped by unseen forces.