Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationEmory U.
Grant numberGr. 9842
Approve DateApril 29, 2019
Project TitleRivera, Luisa (Emory U.) "Transgenerational Resilience in Post-War Guatmala"
What can anthropology do to reconcile the ubiquity of generational resilience with the growing science of heritable alterations to the stress response to adversity? Engaging a critical biocultural approach, I investigate the intergenerational embodiment and transmission of trauma in the wake of the Guatemalan genocide. My work is rooted in three generations of indigenous genocide survivors and descendants living in a refugee repatriation community Huehuetenango. I explore embodiment through biological pathways (epigenetic and endocrine changes related to the stress response) as well as cultural modes of resilience caregivers enact to rupture cycles of adversity and support their children’s healthy development. I hypothesize that the severity and timing of trauma exposure in grandmothers will result in epigenetic and endocrine changes in their descendants. I do not hypothesize, however, that these changes will deterministically lead to poor daughter and grandchild mental health or wellbeing. Rather, I hypothesize that maternal and grandmaternal subjectivity will reveal powerful mechanisms of resilience that shield children from the transmission of suffering, regardless of the traces trauma leaves in the body.