Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment

Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment

Zones of social abandonment are emerging everywhere in Brazil’s big cities—places like Vita, where the unwanted, the mentally ill, the sick, and the homeless are left to die. This haunting, unforgettable story centers on a young woman named Catarina, increasingly paralyzed and said to be mad, living out her time at Vita. Anthropologist João Biehl leads a detective-like journey to know Catarina; to unravel the cryptic, poetic words that are part of the “dictionary” she is compiling; and to trace the complex network of family, medicine, state, and economy in which her abandonment and pathology took form.

As Biehl painstakingly relates Catarina’s words to a vanished world and elucidates her condition, we learn of subjectivities unmade and remade under economic pressures, pharmaceuticals as moral technologies, a public common sense that lets the unsound and unproductive die, and anthropology’s unique power to work through these juxtaposed fields. Vita’s methodological innovations, bold fieldwork, and rigorous social theory make it an essential reading for anyone who is grappling with how to understand the conditions of life, thought and ethics in the contemporary world.

Title:Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780520242784
Format Type:

    Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment Reviews

  • Jen

    If navel gazing is the opposite of informed research, then this is the other opposite of navel gazing. An ethnography of one person.Biehl writes so beautifully that one can almost forget that he is ac...

  • Sokolov

    Had to walk away from this book in amazement many times, either to cry or to talk about it with the person nearest me. Demonstrates so clearly the ways in which psychiatry, hospitals, and family inter...

  • Amy

    Vita is a beautiful ethnography and perfect example of a case study done right. Biehl masterfully sculpts the story of Catarina's life through his passion to find answers and through his substitution ...

  • M

    absolutely heartbreaking story, brilliant analysis of abandonment in Brazil. beautifully written as well...

  • Bella Pascal Zionts

    highly highly recommend ...

  • Danny Cardoza

    This is life changing ethnography....

  • Brittney Sanderson

    Visceral and insightful. Biehls writing is captivating....

  • Maya Mishra

    The anthropological inferences sometimes lost me, but this really picked up steam as it went....

  • Yang

    A piece of art - you really remember it by your very encounter with it. A book deserves to be a "best-seller" for a public audience beyond the academic world. ...

  • Bri

    One of the most beautiful and devastating ethnographies I've ever read. I recognize its problems. It is not very reproducible. It is hard to know where Catarina begins and ends and where Biehl begins ...