All posts by Clare Callahan

A Story of Resistance and the Evolving Questions of the Keystone XL Pipeline Fight

By John Fiege

I shot most of Above All Else in 2012 during President Obama’s second campaign for president. Over the past five years I have continually asked myself what the film reveals about the world and the process of social change. My answers to those questions change over time, reminding me of why it is important that a film pose significant questions rather than merely search for answers.

The story of David Daniel and the fight to stop the Keystone XL pipeline in East Texas continues to frame significant questions and illuminate key issues undergirding environmental destruction, climate change, social justice, and the process of change in general.

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Ethnographic Lessons for Well-Being

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

Supervivientes is a concept some people with histories of sexual violence living in Monterrey, Mexico have used to identify their life experiences. As an alternative to the linked concepts of victim and survivor, the word conveys the idea that people with stories of sexual trauma “might not be survivors or victims but rather human beings with a special capacity to successfully embrace life in spite of excruciating life circumstances.”

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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.

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