Crossroads Research

Lecture Series: Ailment and remedy: colonising healways in the Mariana Islands, by Matilde Carbajo

September 29, 2023, 14:00 CET, online via MS Teams

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Mariana Islands experienced the encounter of different worldviews, including how people comprehended health and disease. One of these medical perspectives was European-centred and heavily influenced by previous experiences, primarily military and definitively colonial. It was also closely intertwined with the Catholic faith of the colonial agents who established the mission in the archipelago in 1668. Another perspective was rooted in the Indigenous latte Chamoru (900 to 1700 CE) tradition. This tradition emphasized the significance of ancestral connections, touch, communal care over individual care, and the wisdom of the elderly for diagnoses. Here I share part from my doctoral research, which used archaeological evidence, documentary sources from late 16th and 17th centuries, and ethnographical materials to explore how various elements connected with healing (including individuals, substances, and material culture), were resignified, adopting new meanings. I will argue that the colonization of the Mariana Islands was not solely achieved through the sword and the cross, but also medically.

Matilde Carbajo is an archaeologist and cultural anthropologist. She is a La Caixa Fellow-PhD candidate at Pompeu Fabra University (Spain) researching Indigenous healing systems and medical knowledge transmission in the Mariana Islands before and after Spanish colonization. Other research interests include plant-processing technologies, ethnomedicine, ethnobotany, and heritage management.

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