Matters of life and death: Suicide by pesticide ingestion in India — ASN Events

Matters of life and death: Suicide by pesticide ingestion in India (17001)

Angeliki A Balayannis 1 , Brian R Cook 1
  1. University of Melbourne, Parkville

Human geography has yet to broach the question of suicide in India, despite much to offer. This paper has two aims: to draw attention to the materiality of self-destruction, and to review the literature on India’s pesticide suicides. Every suicide involves a partnership between the decision to end one’s life and the method that will produce death. The practice of self-destruction, be it hanging, drowning, jumping from heights, or swallowing pesticide, is material. Farmers’ suicides in India are hotly contested,1 highly politicised,2 and often diagnosed by social scientists as a symptom of ‘agrarian crisis’.3 The social science literature, however, has largely overlooked a fundamental element of suicide – its materiality. Pesticide ingestion is the primary method of suicide in the subcontinent, and is purportedly most prevalent in agrarian settings.4 This paper points toward an approach where human geographers can contribute to this vast and bewildering issue.

  1. Gruére, G & Sengupta, D 2011, 'Bt cotton and farmer suicides in India: An evidence-based assessment', Journal of Development Studies, vol. 47, no. 2, pp. 316-37.
  2. Münster, D 2012, 'Farmers' suicides and the state in India: Conceptual and ethnographic notes from Wayanad, Kerala', Contributions to Indian Sociology, vol. 46, no. 1-2, pp. 181-208.
  3. Kennedy, J & King, L 2014, 'The political economy of farmers’ suicides in India: indebted cash-crop farmers with marginal landholdings explain state-level variation in suicide rates', Globalization and Health, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 16-24.
  4. Patel, V, Ramasundarahettige, C, Vijayakumar, L, Thakur, JS, Gajalakshmi, V, Gururaj, G, Suraweera, W & Jha, P 2012, 'Suicide mortality in India: A nationally representative survey', The Lancet, vol. 379, no. 9834, pp. 2343-51.