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Organizing Care: Zapotec Indigenous Views on Aging and Dementia
Wednesday, April 20, 2022, 02:00am
Contact Jennifer Trowbridge (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Date of Talk: Wednesday, April 20th, 2022 at 2:00PM

Organizing Care: Zapotec Indigenous Views on Aging and Dementia

With Teresa Martinez Chavez

Dementia is a neurological impairment characterized by a decline in memory and other cognitive abilities. As a global health concern, public health officials have categorized dementia as the new “epidemic,” facing societies today. Memory loss also appears to be of increasing concern for Indigenous people, for whom respect and care for the elderly are built into the fabric of Indigenous communities. However, few have observed the experiences and conceptions of dementia within Indigenous contexts. Accordingly, this research asks: How Indigenous people come to experience and understand the changes that happen as the body ages? How is Indigenous understanding of memory loss affected by socioeconomic constraints, and different cultural perspectives of age and memory?

Through a combination of participant observation, and semi-structured interviews with family members of dementia patients, activists, medical professionals, and document analysis, this discussion investigates these questions by studying the activism of Zapotec Indigenous women part of a heath committee– known as Avales – as they organize to navigate and change biomedical care so it meets the needs of their elders.


Teresa Martinez is a Ph.D. candidate at the New York University Department of Anthropology. Her research focuses on gender and health, Indigenous women activism, Social movements in Latin America, the politics of memory and elderly care in Mexico. Her dissertation tentatively titled, Organizing Care: Cultural Understanding of Aging and Dementia examines the socio-cultural constructions of aging, dementia, and the politics of memory through the lens and activism of Indigenous Zapotec women. Her research has been supported by the Tinker Foundation, Social Science Research Council and National Science Foundation fellowship.

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