Congratulations to ADTSG’s 2023 Graduate Student Travel Award Winner: Sugandh Gupta!
Sugandh will be presenting a paper entitled “’The Goddess will take care of me’: Competing Faiths of Drug recovery in Jammu and Kashmir, India” at this year’s American Anthropological Association conference in Toronto!
Sugandh is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She critically studies mental health systems and everyday care in areas of distress and socio-political conflict. Her dissertation examines the social and clinical impacts of long-term militarization and political conflict on injecting drug users, mental health professionals, and government programs that seek to rehabilitate drug users in Jammu and Kashmir, India. Her work has been supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, American Institute of Indian Studies, Taraknath Das Foundation, and others. She has also been awarded the 2021 Polgar Award for Applied Anthropology by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She is the co-founder of the NGO Roohaniyat Foundation and the outreach director of Mad in South Asia, an online publication, an ally, and affiliate of the international publication “Mad in America.” She also has a Master’s degree in Psychology. Prior to starting her Ph.D. program, she worked in India as an organization and development consultant with corporate and social sector conducting ethnographic research, psychometric assessments, trainings, and workshops.
Why did you choose to study anthropology?
As a psychologist, I felt frustrated by the deep emphasis on diagnosis and clinical evaluation of clients. I noticed that the practice of psychology lacked a socio-cultural understanding of the experience of the users of mental health services in India. Almost everything was driven through diagnostic categories. Anthropology allowed me to engage with questions surrounding mental health from a critical and reflective lens.
Why are you interested in alcohol, drugs, and tobacco research?
I got interested in alcohol, drugs, and tobacco research because I am fascinated by the omnipresence of substances and how they are responded to culturally.
What are your research plans for studying alcohol, drugs, and tobacco?
My research focuses on how state-sponsored care for substance users operates in the peripheries of territorial contestation, illuminating aspects of drug treatment, its accessibility, and its experience among clients living in disputed regions of chronic political unrest. I am in the final stages of writing my dissertation.
What do you hope to do after you graduate?
In my next project, I am interested in examining the proliferation of psychiatric knowledge in everyday lives of laypersons and understanding the growth of various psychotherapeutic modalities in modern day India. I am also working on ways to blend my diverse research, teaching, and entrepreneurial interests.