The Social Death of Katrina: An Anthropological Study of Abandonment in Brazil

  ”Vita” means “life” in Latin, and Vita in this book was founded in 1987 as a shelter founded by ex-street gangster Ze Das Drogues in Porto Alegre, Brazil.   In 1995, when the author of this book, Joao Bier, and the photographer visited Weta for the first time, Ze told them: “Vita is the result of love. No one wants these people anymore, but caring is
  our mission.”
The reality of the “human garbage dump” makes the camera at a loss.
  Mentally ill patients abandoned by their families are housed in Weta along with other socially abandoned patients, the unemployed, and the homeless. Abandoned walk around their soiled territory, or roll on the ground, curled up on or under a bed if one is available. These people live in a state of ostracized abandonment, reduced to dying animals unworthy of love and care.
  The protagonist of this book, Katrina, lives in Weta. She is repeatedly misdiagnosed, over-medicated, and health professionals and family members conspire to create a “mad woman” identity for her.
  Because she is a difficult madwoman, financially worthless, physically dependent, and mentally unsustainable, family members can process her existence as “a drug-conscious person” . Katrina is thus reduced to a human residue that is no longer worthy of affection even though she is remembered by her family. Her social death has come long before her biological death.
  The core dogma of the complex structure is this: If you are poor, unproductive or unwanted, you are incredibly vulnerable to a social death mechanism and ultimately lose your right to be human—part of the regularity of society, the new “common sense” of contemporary life “.
  The author wrote that he traveled all over Brazil, saw the traces of Vita everywhere, and realized that “Vita has become a social destiny”. The society is allowing people who desperately need help to be easily abandoned, but the state, medical institutions, the public, and families do not need to bear direct moral and legal responsibilities for the operation of the mechanism that people are abandoned in the abandoned areas of society.
  This leads to one of the core reflections of this book, that is, what is the significance of a country that frequently participates in the creation of human tragedies, and a society that forces more and more people who are considered worthless into such abandoned areas? Real political, economic and cultural background?
  In order to answer the above questions, the ethnographic study of the single other involves a huge system, a complex operating field, law, town hall, family, local health post, private clinic, alternative mental health services and psychiatric Courts are involved. Embedded in this is how the community, family, and personal life are specifically valued, and how they are determined within larger business processes and institutional arrangements.
  What is commendable about this anthropological work is that in the face of a series of huge and complex problems, the researchers have given readers a “key” with their comprehensive and precise grasp and analysis of the field.
  In the 1970s, in the reform movement of Brazilian political democratization, mental health workers launched a fierce anti-asylum struggle, attacked the political role of psychiatry as a “science of order”, and advocated the abolition of psychiatric hospitals in favor of a family-based and The demedicalization and destigmatization of society takes its place. The demands of healthy politics are echoed by federal statutes.
  Regrettably, although the original intention of public health ideals and policies is to help mental patients recover into actionable moral agents by requiring family members to assume the responsibility of care and engaging the community to provide listening and encouraging services, under the neoliberal government Only the ideology came alive amid cuts to public spending, and alternative paths of treatment never took shape. “De-institutionalization” became simply “de-hospitalization,” with the mentally ill sent back to their families, and those without families on the streets.
  “Household businesses” cropped up in cities, and families who had to care for relatives added a few cots to their garages and, in the best-case scenario, began to earn money from providing care. Other families learned to go directly to care providers with their pensions, and the elderly, disabled and mentally ill were thrown together in “old people’s housing”.
  In practice, “the family” became the main recipient of an inactive political will to reform, which further accelerated the complete breakdown of kinship ties and family contracts. The aforementioned deinstitutionalization of psychiatric care and the reinstitutionalization of the typical family formed the backdrop for Katrina’s eviction.
  Going back to Katrina, the author borrows the image of the “scapegoat” (a character who is expelled from the political entity) in Derrida’s philosophy, and calls Katrina the scapegoat, and the drug plays a role in the expulsion of this scapegoat. , played a crucial intermediary role.
  Katrina’s psychiatric records provide a complete picture of the day-to-day workings of the scientific machinery that conspired to abandon her. She was treated as a typical poor mental patient, and care gradually evolved into dispensing medicine, and the “rheumatism” and physical pain she had been emphasizing were regarded as manifestations of mental illness, and no one cared at all.
  Various drugs to treat mood disorders, depression, anxiety, and delusions were violently applied to her body. Crazy women need medicine, and if they don’t take medicine, they are crazy women—drugs have become a social tool, rationalizing a set of authoritative narratives that can “dehumanize” Katrina, and justifying the treatment of people who are not needed disposal. Biological and subjective dual expulsion, through medicine and medical science, relieves family and society of moral pressure.
  However, because of the effective intervention of anthropologists in Katrina’s physical condition and family history, in a comprehensive clinical examination, the doctor and the author found that the cause of the disease that led to Katrina’s abandonment was not a mental problem at all, but a mental problem. An inherited ataxia syndrome (abbreviated MJD) that causes degeneration of the central nervous system.
  Individual gait imbalance, limb movement disorder, speech and swallowing difficulties, muscle cramps, paralysis, strabismus, sleep disturbance, etc. caused by cerebellar ataxia are all symptoms of MJD. Geneticists who study MJD told the authors that this genetic defect does not cause any mental illness, psychosis or dementia, and patients’ intelligence remains intact and their minds are clear.
  In addition to the symptoms, what happened to Katarina for a long time is also very similar to the fate of most women in the doctor’s clinical samples. In terms of kin dynamics, the exclusion and expulsion of the Katrinas “always goes through the family.”
  In the doctor’s observation, the husband usually abandons his wife when the disease occurs, but the woman stays to take care of the man and the child. The ex-husband’s repulsion, betrayal and rejection of Katrina presents a comical contrast with her brother’s wife’s inseparable relationship with her husband.
  Katrina’s medically disqualified status as a madman, in the author’s opinion, serves as a clear beacon of light on the historicity of her current condition. A person without psychosis, as an exemplar of psychiatry in transitional times, presents the history of contemporary psychiatric care in Brazil.
  And this complex, miserable, and prevalent social fate essentially gives an indifferent answer to the concept of “what does life mean in the present”: “If a person loses the possibility of generating income for the family, she will You will lose value, you will lose your feelings, you will lose everything.”
  And such a concept is wrong, a life that no longer has any value to society and a life that no longer has any value to oneself are two different things. A flawed society with “instrumental rationality” as its relative law is not qualified to evaluate the supreme value of life itself. Each of us is a manifestation of humanity in a universal sense. When the dignity and rights of others are being trampled on, it means that my dignity and rights will not be preserved.
  It is important for the reader to realize that those who are desperately in need of help are expelled from the social relationships she/him valued, abandoned by blood relatives and friends and lovers of their own choice, removing the easy-to-attribute psychological reasons, and more importantly, the social and economic context in which they are seen.
  It is worth mentioning that the nineteen-volume “dictionary” on self-life written by Katrina is also cataloged in the book. In addition to opening a critical space through Katrina’s experience and fate, this book, more importantly, Katrina’s persistence in writing expresses her resistance to being erased by society and being classified as a lunatic manner. In a creative way, her writing reveals a human potential that is far underestimated, that is, it is possible for a subject to adopt a unique symbolic relationship about the world to understand their own living experience.
  The meaning and weight of this book do not require me to make any excuses to praise and praise. When the poor and disadvantaged groups are gradually disappearing from the fringes of public view, those who stand in the public view are also gradually losing the ability to think about macro issues and serious politics. In this sense, read an anthropological work that has done so in such a way as to “make larger structural and institutional designs visible” and understand how a good anthropologist, in his field, sincerely practices “ Restoring the context and meaning of the suffering life experience I have captured, helping it gain political value, and producing a form of dialogue-like knowledge”, is the author’s effort to “open up a sense of expectation in this most desolate environment” Impressed, in itself, stimulates the potential of anthropology to become a mobilizing force, and also constitutes a small effort to understand “goodness” and impossible justice.