My name is Amy Summer and I just finished up my junior year at Penn. I’m from Kutztown, Pennsylvania, which is a little college town in rural PA. I’m studying cultural and medical anthropology with a minor in international development, which is what has led me to work with the Shahi Exports internship team this summer. We’ll be traveling between Bangalore and Orissa, trying to learn about the female factory laborers employed by Shahi Exports, looking at the challenges posed in their migration from the rural Orissa to urban Bangalore, their experiences with shifting gender roles, and their mental and physical well being in light of all of these changes. I’m trying not to go in with specific expectations on what I’ll see or learn. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my travels so far, it’s that these expectations are never what I end up finding. Flexibility is a beautiful quality when you travel, and it’s one that I’ve definitely been forced to embrace over the last few years. But, if I were to pick a certain question that I’d really like to dig into, it’s how mental health is framed in India, especially in the context of factory work. How do gender and power structures influence who becomes or is deemed “mentally ill” and what kinds of services can be provided to try to help those who are struggling with these issues. I’m hoping that if I can tackle some of these questions, this work could possibly go towards my thesis for medical anthropology.
Me backpacking last summer in Costa Rica
I’m looking forward to so many things on this trip—getting a chance to work with other researchers and international development consultants, learning my first few words of Hindi, chatting with the women working at the factory, and of course, eating tons of Indian food. But, I really can’t wait for that overwhelming feeling you get when you start to encounter people who have a completely different worldview from your own, and you start to feel your mind grow.