Stable condition: Traumatic injury, coma, and vital traffic in a Mumbai hospital ward

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Based on five years of research in a public-hospital trauma ward in Mumbai, this article examines the fraught case study of comatose states that result from traffic-accident injuries. It focuses on a relationship between two brothers, one injured in a motorcycle accident and in a coma, and the other caring for him. The article asks: How do people navigate life-and-death situations through both stillness and motion? Addressing this question requires recasting traumatic injury from a wound that lodges in a single body to an intersubjective problem of discontinuous and relational traffic. In moments of transfer to the hospital, prognosis about vital signs, and reflections on death, the embodiment of and care for traumatic injury materializes through uneven relationships of intermittent motion. The article develops the analytic of vital traffic to describe these relationships and analyzes the temporal and spatial discontinuities that shape and undermine stability after injury occurs. Differences in vital traffic matter to patients, families, providers, and to the very possibility of survival. The implication of this finding is a better understanding of the sociality of injury and its care. Beyond the case of medicine, attention to vital traffic can illuminate the flux of ethnography itself.





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Solomon, H (2023). Stable condition: Traumatic injury, coma, and vital traffic in a Mumbai hospital ward. American Anthropologist, 125(2). pp. 252–261. 10.1111/aman.13839 Retrieved from

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