Veena Das is Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology at the Johns Hopkins University in the United States. Her research covers a range of fields. She is passionately interested in the question of how ethnography generates concepts; how we might treat philosophical and literary traditions from India and other regions as generative of theoretical and practical understanding of the world; how to render the texture and contours of everyday life; and the way everyday and the event are joined together in the making of the normal and the critical. Her work on collective violence and urban transformations has appeared in many anthologies. Her most recent books are Life and Words: Violence and the Descent into the Ordinary (2007) Affliction: Health, Disease, Poverty (2015) and three co-edited volumes, The Ground Between: Anthropologists Engage Philosophy (2014), Living and Dying in the Contemporary World: A Compendium (2015) andPolitics of the Urban Poor (forthcoming). Her graduate students are working on a number of issues in different parts of the world and her work is deeply informed by her heady interactions with them.
"If in life, said Wittgenstein, we are surrounded by death, so to in the health of our understanding we are surrounded by madness. Rather than a forceful exclusion of this voice of madness, Wittgenstein returns us to the everyday by a gesture of waiting: 'If I have exhausted justifications I have reached bedrock, and my spade is turned. Then I am inclined to say: This is simply what I do.' In this picture of the turned spade as indicative of a turned pen, we have the picture of what the act of writing may be in the darkness of this time. For me the love of anthropology has turned out to be an affair in which when I reach bedrock I do not break through the resistance of the other, but in this gesture of waiting I allow the knowledge of the other to mark me."
Das, Veena. Life and Words: Violence and the Descent into the Ordinary (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), p. 17.