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Gandhi's Body, Gandhi's Truth: Nonviolence and the Biomoral Imperative of Public Health

Joseph S. Alter
The Journal of Asian Studies
Vol. 55, No. 2 (May, 1996), pp. 301-322
DOI: 10.2307/2943361
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2943361
Page Count: 22
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Gandhi's Body, Gandhi's Truth: Nonviolence and the Biomoral Imperative of Public Health
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Abstract

JOSEPH S. ALTER offers a novel reading of Mahatma Gandhi's writings on diet, sex, and hygiene. By arguing "that nonviolence was, for him, as much an issue of public health as an issue of politics, morality, and religion," this reading challenges previous studies that delink Gandhi's preoccupation with issues of health from his political ideas and agenda as well as works that treat those links together but only in terms of psychological and sociopsychological meta-interpretations. Alter also takes a different line on the Mahtama's conception of health by contextualizing it within the framework of what he terms "late imperialism," a framework which enables the author to view his subject's personal convictions "in the context of colonialism's impact on subject bodies." In other words, Gandhi's personal "experiments with truth," whether they centered on dietetics, celibacy, hygiene, and nature cure, cannot be separated from his search for truth, or from his belief in nonviolence, or his campaign for sociopolitical reform.

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