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Becky Read-Wahidi and her committee: Dr. Bill Dressler, Dr. Jason DeCaro, Dr. Michael Murphy, Dr. Kathy Oths, and Dr. Mariana Gabarrot, who skyped in from Mexico
Becky Read-Wahidi and her committee: Dr. Bill Dressler, Dr. Jason DeCaro, Dr. Michael Murphy, Dr. Kathy Oths, and Dr. Mariana Gabarrot, who skyped in from Mexico

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!

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Greg Batchelder presenting FABBL #2. Photo by C. Lynn

Our Fall FABBL series continued September 26 with Greg Batchelder's presentation "Estibrawpa: Ecotourism in the Bribri Village of Yorkin. Celebrating Tradition and Improving Health."

Greg's presentation focused on his summer 2014 research in Costa Rica, where he learned about Estibrawpa, an ecotourism program created by the women of Yorkin, a village of about 200-250 people. Most of the men there worked on banana plantations, and therefore had to travel and remain away from home for long periods of time. This caused depression and lower health in the community, and the women in the village decided to organize an ecotourism company, in coordination with ATEC,  to create an alternative to wage labor on plantations. Men now work as guides, construction workers, organic farmers, and canoe captains to facilitate tourist visits to the village. The community has also been able to build schools in order to teach these trades, native language, and the Bribri historia---their own collection of creation myths and legends. The village also has a medical clinic, but it was closed during Greg's visit.

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Photo by C. Lynn

Greg traveled to Yorkin by canoe and stayed for a week in the home of the Morales family. Houses in the village typically house many generations---8 members of the Morales family lived in the house---and the Bribri are a matrilineal/matrilocal society. The houses are on stilts with storage area underneath for chickens, ducks, pigs, and horses. There is also a communal area in the house, which includes the kitchen/dining area, where they have spring gravity fed water and some solar paneled electricity---although there can be a lack of sunlight at times. Families also usually grow their own corn, and there was possibly a shared community garden. The women also focused on organic coacoa production, which they sell in the village of Bambu. Family life is very important, and a more permissive and communal style of parenting seems to be practiced.

Greg was able to observe many of the benefits from the creation of Estibrawpa, including the resurgence in the community of an interest in traditions from the younger generations. While there is not much outside influence---the village is currently trying to get internet---the younger generations are becoming more interested in learning the native language and historia in order to be more successful in the ecotourism opportunities they have. He was also able to discern a perceived improvement in health from all members of the community, and intends to study this further. He plans to use blood pressure as a biomarker and potentially gain access to past health records in the clinic. The CESD depression scale will also be used. He plans to return next summer and to continue to collaborate with the community in Yorkin and possibly find a natural control group in order to provide further evidence of the improved health benefits of the ecotourism project.

 

Don Felipe Llaro, bonesetter
Don Felipe Llaro, bonesetter

During the summers of 2012 and 2013, Dr. Kathryn Oths led a team of anthropology graduates into the Andean highlands of Northern Peru, to investigate medical treatment choice in the peasant hamlet of Chugurpampa. Oths’ initial relationship with this community began over 25 years earlier when it served as her dissertation research site. Back then, it was a highly productive agricultural zone of more than 900 individuals with good average health status. Since then, however, the once peasant community (comunidad campesina) has become private property and fissioned into two communities – Chugurpampa and Victor Julio (N=~600) – though most inhabitants live in Chugurpampa where the school, church, medical post, soccer field, and stores are located. Climate change has affected the availability of herbs for traditional and home remedies, as well as made it increasingly difficult to earn a living, and the nearby, and potentially soon local, incursion of mining and agriculture companies only adds to daily challenges. Amid these shifting political, economic, and social changes, conditions for maintaining health and treating sickness are transforming as well. The initial goal of research was to assess the link between traditional ecological knowledge and current medical practices. It was hypothesized that, given the tumultuous changes that have occurred in recent years, younger peasants would be less likely to know or put faith in traditional and home remedies for their illnesses, while no difference would be found by gender.

These Peruvian highlands are the site for Dr. Oths' current research project
These Peruvian highlands are the site for Dr. Oths' current research project

For two weeks in August 2012, the team engaged in participant-observation and conducted formal and informal interviews with a convenience sample of adult peasant farmers currently residing in the hamlet. The survey included questions about demographics, agricultural pursuits, recent income, and socioeconomic changes since the 1990s, and focused specifically on knowledge, use, and availability of various types of remedies and healers. Herbs are still unanimously preferred to biomedicine, and humoral theory is remains the reigning etiological theory. There is little perceived loss of herbal availability, and these treatments are seen as equally effective for young and old community members. Bonesetters are still sought for musculoskeletal problems, and people continue to put much faith in ‘soul calling’ for cultural syndromes like susto, or fright illness, and guinea pig rubdowns (soba de cuy) are common for diagnosis and treatment. As before, certain illnesses, such as severe respiratory ailments, are seen as better treated with biomedicine, though there is still little confidence in hospitals. However, there are areas where some change appears evident. Youth have less interest in learning home remedies, which is particularly distressing to Chugurpampans, considering that herbalists and healers are in shorter supply than in the past. Interestingly, the doctor is now preferred over a health sanitarian, but the most surprising change was the preference for a doctor over a midwife; however, this may be spurred in part by government incentives for biomedical prenatal care and delivery, and in part by lack of option, since now no midwives practice there.

What has changed, or eroded over time, is much less highlanders’ knowledge or beliefs and more the availability of healers. People would like to seek traditional medicine in most cases, but there is hardly anyone left to go to for such care, and while climate change has not affected the availability of herbs for treatment, it has damaged agricultural livelihoods, inciting an exodus of Chugurpampan youth to pursue opportunities in the coastal city of Trujillo. Amid this migration, children no longer aspire to become healers, whereas twenty years earlier, dozens of individuals fulfilled what was then a culturally-valued social role. This realization, that traditional healing roles in Chugurpampa face serious threats to their continued existence, laid the foundation for subsequent investigations. In August 2013, Dr. Oths and her research team returned to the hamlet to host a medical conference and film a documentary centering on the life of Don Felipe Llaro, an 80-year old Chugurpampan bonesetter and one of the few remaining healers in the hamlet. The topic of the documentary was to not only highlight the still critical role traditional healers occupy, but also to recapture community interest and find a protégé to learn from Don Llaro, whose extensive ethnomedical knowledge will one day be lost if not preserved.

Dr. Oths attending Un Encuentro con Don Felipe: Un Huesero Distinguido, Un Tesoro Nacional Conference
Dr. Oths attending Un Encuentro con Don Felipe: Un Huesero Distinguido, Un Tesoro Nacional Conference

The conference – entitled Un Encuentro con Don Felipe: Un Huesero Distinguido, un Tesoro Nacional (An Encounter with Don Felipe: A Distinguished Bonesetter, A National Treasure) – was held in the nearby district hospital, and was a rousing success, attracting biomedical and alternative healers from as far as Lima, to acknowledge the importance of traditional medical knowledge in Peru. For three days, Don Llaro welcomed patients to present their complaints, and shared with a fixated audience his breadth of musculoskeletal treatment knowledge. On an individual level, Don Llaro’s participation in the conference appeared to reinvigorate his passion for providing medical treatment, as he proudly demonstrated his life’s work to a room full of healers. More broadly, the conference will hopefully contribute to preserving Don Llaro’s traditional knowledge, in the form of a protégé. Specifically, his granddaughter, who lives in the city of Trujillo but often cares for her grandfather with her younger siblings, showed interest in continuing his legacy. Dr. Oths’ future research aims to follow this young girl’s journey to become enculturated in this traditional knowledge system, as well as document the continued impact of climate change on ethnomedical healing roles in highland Peru.

Alabama Anthropology research was well represented at regional and national conferences this past fall!

Armine Goertz, Jolynn. Fragments and Field Notebooks. Franz Boas and the Chehalis Oral Tradition. Paper presentation at the 112th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago, IL, Nov. 20-24, 2013.

Davis, Jera R. Moundville’s Defining Moment: Plazas, Architecture, and Collective Vision in Polity Formation. Paper presented at the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, Tampa, FL, Nov. 6-9, 2013.

Dengah II, H.J.F. Blessings of the Holy Spirit: How Religious Cultural Consonance Shapes Well-being among Brazilian Pentecostals. Paper presented at the 112th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago, IL, Nov. 20-24.

Dengah II, H.J.F. Blessings of the Holy Spirit: How Religious Cultural Consonance Shapes Psychological Well-being among Brazilian Pentecostals. Invited lecture given for the Colorado State University Alumni Lecture Series, Fort Collins, CO.

DeCaro, Jason, and Warren Wilson. Maternal Mental Health as a Mediator of the Impact Food Insecurity on Child Health in a Peri-Urban Region of Tanzania. Oral presentation at the Canadian Association of Physical Anthropologists, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, Oct. 17-20, 2013.

DeCaro, Jason, and Warren Wilson. Untangling the Knot of Correlated Adversities: Food Insecurity, Maternal Depression, and Maternal & Child Health in Mwanza, Tanzania. Oral presentation at the 112th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago, IL, Nov. 20-24, 2013.

Dressler, William W. Stability and Change in the Cognitive Structure of Four Cultural Domains after Ten Years.  Abstracts of the 112th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago, IL, Nov. 20-24, 2013.

Eubanks, Paul N. The Timing and Distribution of Caddo Salt Production in Northwestern Louisiana. Paper presented at the 70th Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, Tampa, Florida, Nov. 6-9, 2013.

Funkhouser, Lynn. An Analysis of Near-Mound Cemeteries at Moundville. Paper presentation at the Southeastern Archaeology Conference annual meeting, Tampa, FL, Nov. 6-9, 2013.

Galbraith, Marysia. Engagements with Past, Present, and Future through Cultural Heritage. Poster session organized for the 112th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Chicago, IL, Nov. 20-24, 2013.

Galbraith, Marysia. Selective Memories and Contested Futures: Temporality and Collective Representations. Poster presentation at the 112th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago, IL, Nov. 20-24, 2013.

Herndon, KE, BA Houk, M Willis, CP Walker, and A Booher. Structure from Motion Mapping and Remote Sensing at the Maya Site of Chan Chich, Belize. Presented at the South-Central Conference on Mesoamerica; Houston, Texas. November 2, 2013.

Knight, Vernon James. Discussant: Remembering Charlie: A Roundtable Discussion on the Life and Work of Charles Hudson. Southeastern Archaeology Conference annual meeting, Tampa, FL, Nov. 6-9, 2013.

Kosiba, Steve. “Construyendo un paisaje inka: La constitución de la autoridad durante la formación del Estado inkaiko (Cuzco, Perú).” Invited lecture, Paper presented at the Programa de Estudios Andinos, Facultad de Letras y Ciencias Humanas, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Lima, Peru, 2013.

Kowalski, Jessica. Mississippian-Period Settlement Size and Soil Productivity in the Southern Yazoo Basin, Mississippi. Paper presentation at the Southeastern Archaeology Conference annual meeting, Tampa, FL, Nov. 6-9, 2013.

LaDu, Daniel. The 2013 Excavations at the Mazique Mounds. Paper presentation at the Southeastern Archaeology Conference annual meeting, Tampa, FL, Nov. 6-9, 2013.

Lazo, Rodrigo, Kathy Oths, and Max Stein Assessing Change and Continuity in an Andean Medical System American Anthropological Association, 112th Annual Meetings, Chicago, IL. Nov.20-24, 2013.

LeCount, Lisa J., David W. Mixter, and Borislava Simova.  All the King’s Men: Investigating the Nature of Preclassic Maya Elite Households and Kingship at Actuncan, Belize. A paper presented at the 11th annual Belize Archaeology symposium, San Ignacio, Belize, July 4, 2013.

LeCount, Lisa J.  At the Intersections of Powers: Markets and Commodities in Classic Maya Society.  A paper presented at the 78th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in the symposium Households, Markets, World-Systems, and Political Economy: Alternative Pathways to Complexity, organized by Lane Fargher and Verenice Y. Heredia Espinoza.  Honolulu, Hawaii, April 5, 2013.

Lynn, Christopher D. Defraying the Costs of “Analysis Paralysis”: A Neuroanthropological Model of Dissociation, Deafferentation, and Trance. Invited talk for the 113th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Chicago, IL, November 20—24, 2013.

Lynn, Christopher D. The Ecological Diversity of Transcendence. Invited talk for the Tuscaloosa Secular Humanists. Tuscaloosa, AL, September 25, 2013.

Mixter, David W., and Lisa J. LeCount.  Building History through Households: Contextualizing Social and Political Transitions at Actuncan.  A paper presented at the 11th annual Belize Archaeology symposium, San Ignacio, Belize, July 4, 2013.

Oths, Kathy. Discussant: When the Doctor Is Not In: Emergent Practices of Care in Patient/Nonphysician Provider Interactions. American Anthropological Association, 111th Annual Meetings, San Francisco, CA. Nov.20-24, 2013.   

Oths, Kathy. Roundtable Presenter: The Inextricability of Environment and Culture in the Emergence of 21st Century Maladies: Potential Contributions of Anthropology. American Anthropological Association, 111th Annual Meetings, San Francisco, CA. Nov.20-24, 2013.

Read-Wahidi, Mary Rebecca.  Poor and Living in a Foreign Land: Mexican Immigrants Coping with Life in Mississippi.  112th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Chicago IL. Nov. 20-24, 2013.

Smith, Karen Y., and Vernon James KnightThe Role of Primitive Geometric Elements in Swift Creek Art. Poster presentation at Southeastern Archaeological Conference annual meeting, Tampa, Florida, Nov. 6-9, 2013.

Steel, Meghan, and Christopher D. Lynn. Fireside Meditations: The Induction of a Relaxation Response by Focused Attention on a Flickering Light and Novel Sound Phenomenon. Oral presentation at the 112th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Chicago, IL, Nov. 20-24, 2013.

Stein, Max J. and  Christopher D. LynnReligion as Resilience: Evaluating the Intersections of Religious Collectivity and Disease in Limón Province, Costa Rica.  Paper presented at the 112th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago, IL, Nov. 20-24, 2013.