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The Ecological Being: Anandgram and the Expanded Leprous Body

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Rachel Armstrong



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


This paper establishes an identity framework for the reading of an ecological identity through my sabbatical experience in working with patients at Anandgram—the Village of Joy—in 1991 as a medical student. Anandgram is a leprosy hospital and rehabilitation center situated on the outskirts of Pune, India. It is home to a unique community of outcasts that are ravaged by the stigmata of leprosy. Despite the overwhelming odds against their success, they overcame being constrained by a singular identity and reclaimed a productive future for themselves. The ways that Anandgram residents reclaimed their identity and forged new kinds of existences for themselves have far-reaching implications for the built environment through its impact on identity, technology, ecology, culture, materiality, and the production of spaces. I will therefore present a portrait of the leprous body – not as a machine – but as an ‘ecology’. This dynamic model of human anatomy is in continual flux and deeply embedded with the environment and may be thought of as the ‘ecological being ‘. Although intrinsically part of the natural world, the ecological being is not infinitely extruded into its surroundings but is edited at the boundary of its existence by a range of influences that include - technology, ecology and culture.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Armstrong R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Architecture and Culture

Year: 2016

Volume: 4

Issue: 2

Pages: 249-261

Online publication date: 02/09/2016

Acceptance date: 13/04/2016

Date deposited: 16/03/2016

ISSN (print): 2050-7828

ISSN (electronic): 2050-7836

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/20507828.2016.1179554

Notes: This is the first article to coin the phrase the ecological being to examine what it means to 'be human' in an age of networks, ecosystems and entangled bodies. Such a hub of activity is known as the 'ecological being' that is exemplified in a case study based on personal experiences at a leprosy colony in India, in 1991.


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