The Medicalisation of Incest and Abuse : Biomedical and Indigenous Perceptions in Rural Bolivia book cover
1st Edition

The Medicalisation of Incest and Abuse
Biomedical and Indigenous Perceptions in Rural Bolivia

ISBN 9780367431037
Published September 11, 2019 by Routledge
246 Pages

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Book Description

Combining biomedical, psychological, and anthropological approaches to intergenerational incestuous violence experienced by rural indigenous [and] peasant women in the Andean region, this book raises new questions surrounding humanness and the normalisation of sexual violence. Through original ethnographical research, the author analyses Andean understandings of incest, medical positivist practices, as well as the psychiatric ‘treatment’ of incestuous and gender-based violence.

The book examines the implications that psychiatric institutionalisation within the context of interethnic, gender, and class schemes, has on what it means to be human. It also draws on a theoretical framework in order to understand how discourses shape, and are simultaneously problematized by individual experiences of sexual violence and incest. Intergenerational incestuous violence against women is not necessarily an exceptional event, but can be an ordinary process, one where through the articulation of biomedical and indigenous medicine, as well as indigenous and mestizo forms of administration of political power, women as subjects can become possible.

This book will appeal to scholars and students with an interest in gender-based violence, as well as mental-health practitioners and academics in Latin American studies, anthropology, gender studies, and sociology.

Table of Contents

List of Figures

Chapter 1. Introduction

1.1 Departure points

1.2 Gender violence

1.3 Incest

1.4 Lawfulness and heterosexual intergenerational incest

1.5 Incest in Bolivian Law

1.6 Sexual violence, incest and ethnicity

1.7 Institutional violence

1.8 The research

1.9 The main characters

1.10 The organisation of the manuscript

1.11 References

Chapter 2. Gender, Ethnicity and Class in Bolivia’s National Psychiatric Hospital

2.1 Introduction. The psychiatric contradiction: to be "ill" is to be "dangerous"

2.2 The National Psychiatric Hospital since the unification of the INPGP (Instituto Nacional de Psiquiatría Gregorio Pacheco) (1980)

2.3 Power relationships: the staff and the inmates

2.4 "Evo only likes señoritas": imagining hierarchies

2.5 Relationships between staff and inmates

2.6 Relationships among medical and non-medical staff

2.7 Relationships between religious, medical and non-medical staff

2.8 Control mechanisms: is she dangerous or ill? Conceptions of "mental illness": diagnosis and treatment

2.9 Diagnosis: "hablando con la pared" (talking to the wall)

2.10 Treatment

2.11 Give them their place: they mustn’t forget

2.12 Patient’s rights

2.13 Final remarks

2.14 References

Chapter 3. Humanness as a Continuum

3.1 Introduction: Sexual violence against women in Bolivia

3.2 Sexual violence against women and psychiatry in Bolivia

3.3 Sexual violence as a common background of female inmates

3.4 Qhencha: the outside within the psychiatric hospital

3.5 Final remarks

3.6 References

Chapter 4. Las Condenadas: from Indigenous Traditional Medicine to Psychiatric Biomedicine

4.1 Introduction

4.2 Incest and kinship

4.3 Incest, Qhencha, homo sacer

4.4 Qhencha as an implicit experiential concept

4.5 Susto

4.6 Sacer

4.7 Schizophrenia, third person: I am the third Eve

4.8 Final remarks

4.9 References

Chapter 5. Conclusions

5.1 Incest and its universality

5.2 Psychiatric institution

5.3 Situated knowledge

5.4 Third person

5.5 References




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Carolina Borda-Niño-Wildman is a Colombian anthropologist, political scientist, and butoh dancer, working on academic and applied research on gender, ethnicity, identity politics, human rights, performance, and humanness in contexts of violence in Latin America and Europe.


'Borda-Niño-Wildman builds a theoretical account of the place of inter-generational incest in everyday social relations, and in the making of mental illness, that sets a radical challenge for the anthropological argument that incest is everywhere a pre-social and taboo act. Her intensely empathetic ethnographic attention allows us a tiny but brilliantly intense glimpse into the perspectives of doubly-abandoned and doubly-vicitimised female inmates. This book should trouble any anthropologist, or indeed any reader, both in its matters of fact and of theory.' - Huon Wardle, Centre for Cosmopolitan Studies, University of St Andrews

'This is a theoretical and ethnographic study carrying great weight which analyzes why incest has almost never been related to sexual violence against women in anthropological research. Through a very careful and rigorous anthropological and historical analysis, Carolina Borda examines sexual violence against peasant and indigenous women in Bolivia, paying attention to their discourses and experiences produced in psychiatric settings. The research focuses on the ethnographic findings of Bolivia, its rich and thorough analysis with its far reaching findings and conclusions should serve to allow comparisons with similar situations in many other countries. The Medicalization of Incest and Abuse is a must-read for scholars and students of power, sexuality, gender, ethnicity, and class.' - María Teresa Fernández Aceves, University of Illinois

"This is a very brave book. Committed, unsparingly honest, and necessary to understand culturally situated forms of gender violence. Carolina Borda’s ethnography reveals the social place that both, rural indigenous communities and psychiatric institutions, assign to women who fail to endure an environment where sexual violence is normalised." - Patricia Oliart, Senior Lecturer in Latin American Studies, Newcastle University