On Tuesday, October 7, Becky Read-Wahidi successfully presented and defended her dissertation, titled “A Model Guadalupan: Devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe and Psychosocial Stress Among Mexican Immigrants to the South.” This was the first Anthropology Department Defense this academic year.
Becky began her presentation with some historical background on the Virgin of Guadalupe, who appeared to Indian peasant Juan Diego in 1531 with instructions to build a church in her honor. The Virgin of Guadalupe has been officially recognized by the Catholic Church, and has her own festival occurring on December 12. She is indigenous to Mexico, and is seen as a resistance to social injustice. Becky focused on the idea that the Virgin of Guadalupe could be a Mexican master symbol.
Becky then presented her cultural research in Scott County, Mississippi. She performed a cultural domain analysis, which included a consensus analysis and a consonance analysis, to place the idea of the master symbol within the context of immigration and to determine if the Virgin of Guadalupe is a “collective representation.” She focused on the biocultural aspects of the immigration experience, particularly the physical and psychological effects of stress, in order to evaluate the Virgin of Guadalupe as a coping mechanism. She developed her own scale for the consonance analysis, which included variables such as years in the US and Mississippi, comfort speaking English, and birthplace of children. The effects of stress were measured by participants’ reported health and life satisfaction, illness in the past month, and a comparison of life satisfaction now and before arrival in the US.
Becky’s research and analysis demonstrated that devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe was not buffering stresses. She did determine that there was a higher consonance with the more children a participant had, as well as higher perceived stress scores, which could potentially be linked to the Virgin of Guadalupe being seen as a mother figure and a complex family model, respectively.
Congratulations to Becky Read-Wahidi on her successful defense!