“We are the living dead”, or, the Precarious Stabilisation of Liminal Life in the Presence of CKDu

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This article examines how everyday encounters with kidney disease treatment in Sri Lanka’s dry zone generate distinct space-times of liminality. Building on work that explores the alternative coordinates of biopolitical intervention, I argue that health improvement schemes in the dry zone yield complex materialisations of “living death” in conditions of austerity, poverty, and aridity. Specifically, I illustrate how intervention reconfigures body-ecologies, dismantles infrastructures of liveability, and re-works relations between life and time in order to stabilise liminal forms of existence. Drawing on 15 months of ethnographic data, I describe two space-times of liminality that emerge through experiences of treatment: the “zombie” and “life in the bubble”. As part of my analysis, I document how these bodily states are ambiguously configured by experiences of care. Across these encounters, I illustrate how patients toggle back and forth between states of debility and capacity in ways that blur boundaries between life/death and bodies/environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1965-1985
Number of pages21
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author. Antipode © 2022 Antipode Foundation Ltd.


  • biopolitics
  • debility
  • dry zone Sri Lanka
  • health geography
  • liminality
  • mystery kidney disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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