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Ebook Information

Embodied Protests

Emotions and Women's Health in Bolivia

How drastic economic reform ravaged women's quality of life

In the late 1980s, the introduction of drastic economic policies left Bolivia with soaring unemployment, decreases in social services and living standards, and greater than ever income equality. The new direction reshaped Bolivians' aspirations, and altered their senses of identity and their relationships to one-another, work, and the state.

Embodied Protests examines how Bolivia's hesitant courtship with globalization manifested in the visceral and emotional diseases that afflicted many Bolivian women. Drawing on case studies conducted among market- and working-class women in the provincial town of Punata, Maria Tapias examines how headaches and debilidad, so-called normal bouts of infant diarrhea, and the malaise oppressing whole communities were symptomatic of profound social suffering. She approaches the narratives of distress caused by poverty, domestic violence, and the failure of social networks as constituting the knowledge that shaped their understandings of well-being. At the crux of Tapias's definitive analysis is the idea that individual health perceptions, actions, and practices cannot be separated from local cultural narratives or from global and economic forces.

Evocative and compassionate, Embodied Protests gives voice to the human costs of the ongoing neoliberal experiment.

"Based on finely detailed ethnography, lovingly treated by an author who knows how to write."--Daniel M. Goldstein, author of Outlawed: Between Security and Rights in a Bolivian City

"An engagingly written, and often moving, depiction of the lives of working class women in Bolivia and their stories of suffering and success navigating the social and political economic obstacles of everyday life in the twenty-first century. Throughout, the finely detailed analysis illuminates the cultural parameters of emotion and illness and the local politics of neoliberalism and we gain an appreciation for individuals' efforts to protest the distress in their lives and enhance the well-being of themselves and others. A clear contribution to the field."--Krista E. Van Vleet, author of Performing Kinship Narrative, Gender, and the Intimacies of Power in the Andes


Maria Tapias is an associate professor of anthropology and an associate dean at Grinnell College.

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