Ethnographic Lessons for Well-Being

Gloria Gonazález-López discusses intellectual vulnerability in the study of sexual violence in Mexico
By Clare Callahan

In recent years, the amount of research being conducted on sexual violence has surged—but with this surge, are researchers developing the tools they need to manage their exposure to this violence? This inquiry turns ethical questions around, from how research practices impact the lives of subjects to the ways in which how the researcher takes care of herself affects her practice and therefore the lives of participants.

In HI’s Faculty Fellows Seminar on “Health, Well-Being, Healing,” Dr. Gloria González-López (Professor, Sociology) addressed her experience of confronting emotional exhaustion from collecting data on sexual violence and incest in Mexico, specifically in four Mexican cities, Ciudad Juárez, Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Mexico City. Continue reading Ethnographic Lessons for Well-Being

The Language of Ritual

Sergio Romero discusses the politics of sickness and healing
By Saralyn McKinnon-Crowley and Clare Callahan

In Guatemala, a complex relationship exists between language, ethnicity, and social class. Though the national language of Guatemala is Spanish, many Guatemalan people’s native tongue is a Mayan language. Among these people are the Ixhil, a Maya people indigenous to Guatemala. The Ixhil people suffered persecution during the Guatemalan civil war, from which the country is still recovering. Consequently, many NGOs, including local health units, still focus their efforts on the Ixhil. The distinction between the national and indigenous languages is important because, as Dr. Sergio Romero (Associate Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese) observes, ideas about colonialism and ethnicity are intertwined, formed, and expressed through one’s language. The experience of persecution and the resulting social and political awareness cannot, perhaps, be expressed as effectively in the language of the persecutor.

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Contested Definitions of Healing and Medicine

J. Brent Crosson discusses how colonial government has shaped definitions of religion, science, and spirituality
By Saralyn McKinnon-Crowley

What is the difference between religion, science, and superstition? How a society or nation defines what constitutes religion has important legal implications. If the state considers a set of spiritual practice to constitute a religion, those practices will be protected under freedom of religion laws; without those protections, spiritual practices are vulnerable to becoming criminalized. Practitioners of outlawed religions may be compelled to redefine their practices in order to remain on the right side of the law, and spiritual groups that are not considered official religions under the governmental definitions will not be able to claim the financial and legal benefits that official religious organizations are often granted. Religious practices, however, often challenge the binaries that serve as the very basis for the classification of religions as legal entities—binaries, for example, between spirituality and science or spirituality and superstition. In contemporary Trinidad, efforts to define the problem-solving practices that together are known as Obeah illustrate some of the many challenges of distinguishing and defining religious practices from other spiritual activities.

Continue reading Contested Definitions of Healing and Medicine

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