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The Therapeutic Ecologies of Napo Runa Wellbeing

Bridges, Nora (2017) The Therapeutic Ecologies of Napo Runa Wellbeing. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This research examines local knowledge and therapeutic practices geared towards wellbeing in the Upper Amazon among indigenous Kichwa-speakers, the Napo Runa. Specifically, I investigate their concerns, priorities, and actions in the midst of rampant environmental change, market integration, and an acute nutrition transition.
To better understand their lived experiences of managing illnesses and producing wellbeing, I conducted thirteen months of ethnographic research from 2012-2014, in Ecuador’s Amazonian region. I implemented a mixed methods research design that included structured, semi-structured, and unstructured interviews, archival and document analysis, and extensive participant observation.
Findings indicate that Napo Runa navigate multiple medical matrices, and I argue that these interactions among diverse actors spark hybrid and flexible therapeutic ecologies that at once incorporate material and ideational resources from outside sources while remaining anchored in the cultural politics of what counts as wellbeing for Napo Runa. Through therapeutic narratives, research participants share “idioms of defiance” to not only critique the social and structural sources of suffering but also to extol local therapeutic practices grounded in conduits of care for bodies of kin with the purpose of strengthening themselves to contend with the rapid social and environmental change they experience. By establishing relationships with cultural outsiders, Napo Runa fortify sociality and shape bodies and environments in contextual ways, materially transforming both through the circulation of remedies. As such, this work is a critical ethnographic investigation of local knowledge not just as an authentic form of folk experience, but as dialectically produced in relation to coexisting curing repertoires.
Results presented here establish that increasing access to biomedical services does not necessarily lead to acculturation of populations nor does it produce docile patients. During a time when the state of Ecuador has promoted a policy of “living well” (Buen Vivir, Sumak Kawsay), an examination of what is valued as “wellbeing” at the local level is imperative. A central goal of this study is to bridge theory with praxis by developing a framework for exploring the lived experience of pursuing wellbeing in order to critique policy rhetoric and initiatives on the ground so as to transcend reductionism.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Bridges, Noranoracbridges@gmail.comncb25
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMusante,
Committee MemberAlter,
Committee MemberScaglion,
Committee MemberDocumét,
Date: 23 September 2017
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 1 August 2017
Approval Date: 23 September 2017
Submission Date: 9 August 2017
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 363
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: Medical Anthropology Amazonia Kichwa Ethnobotany Indigenous Sustainability
Date Deposited: 24 Sep 2017 00:04
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2022 05:15


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