Bad blood, spoiled milk: bodily fluids as moral barometers in rural Haiti

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Bad blood, spoiled milk: bodily fluids as moral
barometers in rural Haiti
Paul Farmer
Mexican Spiritism
• Arose mid-19th C.—an era of political,
economic, & social turbulence
– 1855-62 Liberal Reforms
• Industrialization & Laissez-faire capitalism
• Proletarianization & Social differentiation
– 1910-17 Revolution & Land Reform
• Spiritism branched out into rural areas
• Social institutions & infrastructural support were
lacking
• This generated cognitive models & symbolic
meanings related to illness etiologies
2
Spiritist Teachings
• Recognize an imperfect world
• Stress the status-quo & non-involvement
in social issues
– Thus social mobility is not promoted
• Spiritualists lack power, thus gain it by
controlling spirits
– Women hold ritual positions within spiritualism
– It militates against social class differences
3
• Finkler: Spiritualism is a response to
increasing class differentiation in Mexico
– The individual removes themselves from
encounters with class differences
– Joining is a quest for dignity & equality;
an escape from social conflict
• When the spirit is housed in the body of
the medium, it can then complete its task
on earth
4
Culture & belief systems
•
•
•
•
•
Ojo (evil eye)
Envidia (envy)
Other examples
Susto (fright)—leads to soul loss
Aire (bad air)
5
Humeral medicine
• 4 Humors
YELLOW BILE
DRY
BLACK BILE
FIRE
AIR
EARTH
COLD
HOT
WATER
BLOOD
WET
PHLEGM
6
SYMPTOMS
• CORAJE, SUSTO, ENVIDIA = HOT
EXPERIENCES
– AVOID HOT FOODS (BEEF, ASPIRIN)
WORKING WITH HANDS
• AIRE = COLD EXPERIENCE
– AVOID COLD FOODS (CHICKEN SOUP,
ORANGES, ALKA SELTZER)
• PATIENTS SUFFER LISTNESSNESS,
APPETITE LOSS, WITHDRAWAL FROM
SOCIAL INTERACTION
7
TREATMENT
TO REGAIN HEALTH: BALANCE AMONG THE
HUMORS
• LACK OF BALANCE (SOCIAL,
PSYCHOLOGICAL, SPIRITUAL)
CAUSES
ILLNESS
• CURANDEROS
– CLEANSE BODY WITH EGG
• TO EXTRACT EXCESS COLD
– HERBS, CANDLES, MASSAGES, INCANTATIONS
• BRUJAS (WITCHES) CAUSE HARM
8
ETIOLOGY
(Knowledge about causes of disease)
• THE CAUSAL EPISODE IS LOOSELY
DEFINED
– THERE IS MUCH LATITUDE IN FINDING A
CAUSE THAT FITS PERSONAL FICTION
– APPEARS AS A CONSEQUENCE OF AN
EPISODE IN WHICH THE INDIVIDUAL IS
UNABLE TO MEET SOCIETAL
EXPECTATIONS
– PROVIDES AN EXPLANATION FOR
DEVIANT BEHAVIOR
9
susto
• Is a culturally sanctioned avenue of escape for
an individual suffering from culturally-induced
stress
• The behavior is not due to the character of the
individual, but because she has been “asustada”
• Asustadas have impunity to engage in behavior
otherwise considered offensive
• She can impose her own definition on a situation
giving her deviant acts legitimacy
• Gives her control over interactions
10
• Susto varies depending on gender—men
& women are socialized differently
• Women have fewer mechanisms for
reducing stress
11
coraje
• Coraje is not just an emotional state, but an
illness that is part of Mexican women’s suffering
• It is a metaphor for reflecting on their condition
as a woman in a patriarchal society
• For Esperanza, coraje expresses outrage at the
violence done to her in the name of patriarchy
• Through coraje, she expressed & overcame the
pain of violence, betrayal, being fracasada
12
Paul farmer:
• Is coraje & spoiled milk real?
• “Somatization” – emotional experiences
become physically manifested
• Interpersonal strife, grief, anger, fright,
shock, worry cause “bad blood” (Move
San)
• Most sufferers reported problems with
spouses or family
13
Spoiled milk
(Lèt gate)
• Pregnant & nursing women are most
vulnerable
– Bad blood spreads to head, limbs, eyes, skin,
uterus
– Bad blood causes breast milk to spoil
– Bad milk is a motive for early weaning, thus
threatening the health of the infant
14
• Bad blood & spoiled milk serve as moral
barometers
– They submit private problems (abuse) to
public scrutiny
– Social problems & psychological
consequences are seen as the causes
• Farmer is critical of simplistic diagnoses,
i.e., “folk illnesses”
15
etiologies
• Psychological and somatic classification of
illness can not be dichotomized
• Farmer elicited women’s etiologies –
Explanatory Models (EMs)
• Healer: “It happens mostly to women. If
you are deceived, cheated, cuckolded,
ostracized, or frightened, you must beware
of bad blood”
16
• Woman: “My life has been full of
problems. A bumpy rash erupted all over
my body. I felt terrible, I couldn’t sleep, I
had no appetite, and I had diarrhea. I had
a terrible headache. It wasn’t until I took
the herbal remedy that I was free of it.”
17
• “As soon as the child was born, I knew the
milk was no good. It was weak, invaded
by bad blood.”
– Emotion causes the milk to go bad and the
milk is watery
– If spoiled milk mixes with bad blood & reaches
the uterus, the woman can die
– The milk can go to her head and make her
crazy
18
• Woman: 2 of her 9 children died, one was
only 11 days old
– A bad person gave her a squash when she
was pregnant; the baby did not want to nurse
– When the baby died the squash came out—
exactly as the mother had eaten it
• Healer: “Your blood turns to water and
you feel weak. Soon you don’t even look
human. The milk goes bad. You need a
remedy to make new milk.”
19
Explanatory models
• The context in which women complain is
often one of unremitting struggle
– When people are under severe nutritional,
political, & interpersonal stress
– They attempt to replace direct confrontation
with a “safer” alternative
• EMs are thus a barometer of the gravity of
social problems
20
• Women are called upon to perform the
herculean task of providing for their families—
often alone
• Social relations & psychological status are more
fragile in times of material & political stress
• Social & psychological stress is turned into
publicly accepted meanings
• This is a culturally sanctioned means to express
dissatisfaction
21
Beyond personal…
• Interpretive medical anthropology has focused
on emic understandings of etiology
• But it must take into account the political
economy
• As women were forced into the labor market,
they were forced away from breast-feeding
• The “spoiled milk syndrome” experienced an
alarming increase
• This coincides with a deteriorating economy
• Early weaning is reinterpreted as a benefit to the
child
22
• Farmer: Anthropologists have not linked the
emotions that result in somatic illness to
larger systems of domination
• Bad blood & spoiled milk are
related to
poverty & women’s
struggle for survival
• By submitting private problems to public
scrutiny, they become powerful metaphors for
warning against the abuse of women
• These are strategies chosen by powerless
women to empower themselves in a gender,
class, & ethnically differentiated world
23
Brujeria (witchcraft)
• Where lower classes lack access to legal
structures for dispute settlement
• Where justice can not be obtained any other way
• The Bruja is a redemptive role for women
engaged in the unfinished struggle for liberation
from women’s roles
• To assume the witch role in the name of
resistance, women collectively take over a
negative feminine myth & redefine it
24
The inquisition
• Women resisted their powerlessness at the
hands of male authorities & laws
• Women of all social categories resorted to
superstition to control men’s sexual authority
• Courts sided with husbands; women used
witchcraft to reprimand husbands who violated
the law
– Aimed at reducing brutal treatment & infidelity
• Witchcraft empowered women since they had
knowledge of sexual powers & could offer a
service
25
Pancho villa cult
• Why a macho superhero?
– Villa was a womanizer
– Villa opposed soldaderas
• Chencha becomes Villa,
a manly woman
26
• Esperanza also seeks redemption
– Her violated body is healed in the Pancho
Villa cult
– The spiritist mass acts out the unfulfilled
promise of redemption
• Women are absent from Mexican history
– Women collectively take over the Villa myth &
redefine it
– They recover history & healing power through
imagination, rather than male-oriented
militancy
27
• Chencha becomes Villa, the protector of
the nation, in a country where women are
still marginalized
• Villa symbolized social reform, but the
revolution is still unfulfilled
• Resurrecting Villa keeps the grievances
alive
28
Marianismo rejected
• Esperanza & Chencha reject the suffering
virgin image
• They write themselves into national history
through the performance of healing
• History is now “ambiguously gendered”
29
• Chencha appropriates power to right wrongs,
punish evil
• Women act out relations of dominance &
submission & gender transformation
– Ruth begging for pesos
– Grinding on the metate
• Villa imparts male power to them for the
unfinished struggle of women
• Villa’s machismo is transformed into a defender
of women against male domination
30
esperanza
Suffering
Rage
Redemption
31
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