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Descargando: chronic stress and grassroots wellness among Chicanas in California

The bodies of low-income women of colour, in communities targeted and terrorised by police violence and state abandonment, are often sites of chronic stress as well as tremendous potential for cultivating politically-engaged forms of wellness.

Through ethnography and personal involvement, Megan Raschig shows how members of a grassroots Mexican-American women’s healing collective in California articulate chronic stresses as “cargas,” Spanish for burden, baggage, or charge, and engage in transformative practices of unloading these stresses amongst each other, or “descargando,” through spiritual healing techniques adapted from the Native American Church. These women come to understand and perform these techniques as decolonised and anti-carceral action, fighting racialised criminalisation and affirming Latinx lives. Attending to how these women’s stresses are held and mobilised to address broader socioeconomic conditions, as “healing” and self-care have become part of contemporary US civil rights activism, Raschig argues that community formations of care provide powerful resources for addressing the roots of chronic stress as well its individualised suffering.

Finally, she invites further reflection on how anthropologists may be called into the work to mitigate the sources of stress and bring about possibilities for a more equitable and liveable world.         

About the speaker

Megan Raschig is a Critical Medical Anthropologist and Assistant Professor at California State University, Sacramento. Her research interests lie at the intersection of health, racial justice, and emergent formations of care in contemporary North America. Her research has focused on the politics of healing in late liberal America, theorising the possibilities for political resistance opened up through self-, community-, and ancestral care in contexts of structural abandonment and state violence.  

 

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