In this talk, Pyar explores the history of excited, agitated states — descriptions that have been used to refer to subjects that die in state custody. Perhaps the most obvious example of excitement resulting in death can be found in the case of excited delirium. Since the early 1990s, this condition has been identified as a leading cause of death among individuals in state custody rather than restraint procedures themselves. Although this condition has been increasingly relied upon to explain away deaths that occur in state custody, a curious matter remains unresolved; excited delirium, as an actual medical condition, does not seem to exist. Currently, excited delirium is not recognized by the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, and the like. Skeptical members oftentimes frame their concern around a similar kind of thinking: condemn its usage and application. However, limiting our engagement to this question misses the opportunity to assess the constitutive relations through which medical concepts come into view. And so, this talk looks to trace the politics of knowledge that gives rise to present-day cultural and political claims and the larger global and imperial modalities that work the naturalize and pathologize subjects.
This research comes from Pyar’s dissertation, entitled, The Spectral Defect: Rethinking the War on Drugs Through Medicine.
Pyar Seth is a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins University pursuing a dual degree in Anthropology and Political Science. He is also a Visiting Research Scholar at King's College London. Broadly, he studies Black cultural thought, policing and medicalization, and the epistemic organization of health, disease, and risk. His dissertation is entitled, The Spectral Defect: Rethinking the War on Drugs Through Medicine; it is an intellectual history of medical diagnoses that have been used to ‘explain away’ racialized fatalities that occur in state custody. Pyar is also a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Research Scholar and a Graduate Research Associate to the Black Beyond Data Project. His other scholarly inquiries examine insurance and the slave trade, rest and the moral imagination, and music and the medical humanities.
Originally published at reilly.nd.edu.