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On Sadness: Configurations of Care, Mental Health, and Impacts of Environmental Precarity in Northern Patagonia

Paula Saravia (PI)


In addition to looming socioeconomic inequality, the accelerated processes of environmental change have impacted health outcomes and the experience of illness in Latin America and elsewhere.

This project aims to unravel the intricate relationship between emotions, mental health, and everyday experience of environmental precarity among Mapuche and non-Mapuche communities in the Argentina-Chile border, Northern Patagonia. Interdisciplinary studies have accounted for the influence of global warming and climate fluctuations in the occurrence, periodicity, and intensity of epidemic outbreaks. The literature also shows that exposure to environmental vulnerability and risk are important in shaping the mental health of populations. This research asks about the role of environmental precarity in the configuration of forms of agency, care, and the social construction of meaning and emotions. Particularly relevant to this research is the historically grounded experience of sadness in the form of “torment,” a conceptualization rooted in colonial legacies and indigenous perspectives of suffering and pain.

Ethnographic fieldwork starting this summer will focus on a) experiences of sadness and meanings of “torment”; b) conceptualizations of environmental precarity; c) narratives of care and mental health.

Caleta Estaquilla, Chile, one of the field sites of this study
Map showing the main field sites of this study
Paula F. Saravia during preliminary fieldwork