Faith Healers and Latinx Literature: Subversive Medicine and Radical Alternatives
University of Kansas
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This dissertation undertakes representations of faith healing in contemporary Latinx literature in order to argue for and explore the possibilities for radically different realities afforded by holistic, intersubjective healing modalities. Each chapter takes a different theoretical approach to faith healing, thereby examining the ways in which faith healing can be subversive medicine, and the various forms of oppression faith healing can resist. In Chapter 1, I use Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima to posit two terms as essential to approaching ideologies of curanderismo: intersubjectivity and extracolonialism. “Intersubjectivity,” from Christina Holmes, connotes a holistic self that is always in context. “Extracolonialism” is a term I put forth to identify curanderismo as adaptable and resourceful. All healing knowledge is always already a part of curanderismo; for an individual curandera, there is only the “known” and the “not yet known.” In Chapter 2, I posit that curanderismo occurs outside of a capitalist economy, and that the paradigm of the gift economy offers a radical alternative to capitalism. I examine transactions of the gift economy in Ana Castillo’s So Far From God and Manuel Muñoz’s “The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue,” and I also posit the concept of a “faith economy” in which faith itself is valuable and is sometimes the only commodity that sustains a community. Chapter 3 expands the conversation from curanderismo to Santería as represented in Cecelia Rodriguez Milanés’s “Two Friends and the Santera” and Cristina Garcia’s Dreaming in Cuban. I argue that Santería can be read as a healing practice, and I posit that the simultaneous (im)mutability of Santería’s material culture acts for practitioners to sustain the practice and to build personal relationships and community-make. The material culture is essential to healing the “social illness” of exile. The fourth chapter refocuses onto curanderismo in works of children’s and YA literature set in the Texas/Mexico borderlands. Through the lens of performance theory, I argue that each curandera character in Monica Brown’s Clara and the Curandera and Nancy Farmer’s The House of the Scorpion makes use of performance to affect healing that resists, if not subverts, hegemonic power.
- Dissertations 
- English Dissertations and Theses 
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