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Venegas, Maria (2017) ALIENATED AFFLICTION: THE POLITICS OF GRISI SIKNIS EXPERIENCE IN NICARAGUA. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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For the Miskitu of Nicaragua, Grisi Siknis is a contagious illness that results from demonic possession and witchcraft. This affliction is characterized by numerous psychosomatic symptoms, such as aggressive behavior, loss of consciousness and periods of rapid frenzy. Grisi Siknis affects predominantly Miskitu women but men are also affected. Grisi Siknis is a historical and social embodied illness that has acquired new meanings at different levels of the Miskitu society. Drawing on 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork (which included in-depth and group interviews, participant observation, collection of secondary materials and reports) in Bilwi-Puerto Cabezas, this dissertation examines the individual, social and institutional levels that produce, redefine and legitimize Grisi Siknis as a “politicized illness.”
At the institutional biomedical level, Grisi Siknis has become an illness redefined as a collective hysteria affecting indigenous peoples with the goal to legitimize the Intercultural Health Model of the region. At the social level, it provides the political arena through which indigenous activism in the region articulate their politics and their demands for recognition and challenge state authorities and institutions. At the individual level of experience, Grisi Siknis helps to illuminate political and social practices that are interrelated to identity, gender relations and emotional responses to everyday lived experience of social hardships that are estranged from the political construction of biomedicine and indigenous activism in the region.
I conclude that the growing disconnection between the socially mediated lived experience and the institutional (biomedicine) and contentious (indigenous activism) uses of Grisi Siknis further feed into the discourses of sexuality, gender violence and inequality associated with the illness experience. Grisi Siknis is gender-inflicted illness that results from a combination of unjust and social inequalities. I demonstrate that while the narratives and experiences associated with the illness are actively created and distributed by the social order itself; the individual experience remain as the symbolic metaphor and critique of society.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Venegas, Mariamdv12@pitt.edumdv120000-0002-2740-2267
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMusante,
Committee MemberAlter,
Committee MemberSanabria,
Committee MemberDocumet,
Committee MemberTerry,
Date: 2 February 2017
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 10 November 2016
Approval Date: 2 February 2017
Submission Date: 21 December 2016
Access Restriction: 1 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 1 year.
Number of Pages: 265
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Grisi siknis, gender, health politics, illness
Date Deposited: 02 Feb 2017 17:49
Last Modified: 13 Mar 2019 18:30


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