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Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas and Mérida M. Rúa

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781479805198

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479805198.001.0001

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Health Brokers, Shrinks, and Urban Shamans Revisited

Health Brokers, Shrinks, and Urban Shamans Revisited

Networks of Care among Argentine Immigrants in New York City

(p.157) 12 Health Brokers, Shrinks, and Urban Shamans Revisited
Critical Dialogues in Latinx Studies

Anahí Viladrich

NYU Press

The findings presented here come from the first ethnographic study on Argentines living in New York City, which examined the role of networks of care in providing access to diverse health resources, including referrals to health providers. On the basis of social capital categories, the study analyzed the overlapping nature of immigrants’ informal networks with biomedical services on the one hand and alternative healing practitioners on the other. Health providers included health brokers, doctors known on a personal basis, psychologists sharing immigrants’ networks (e.g., the tango field), and urban shamans, represented by folk healers and fortune tellers. While mental health providers embodied a health resource shared by immigrants’ social webs, urban shamans became a dispositive for activation of women’s emotional support systems. Argentines’ access to those practitioners was mostly supported by relationships of cooperation, reciprocity, and trust between parties. Contrary to the intuitive belief that dense and homogeneous networks are more beneficial to their members, this study highlights the advantages of heterogeneous and fluid social webs that are able to connect immigrants to diverse health resources. Towards the end, this chapter addresses the limits of informal networks of care in providing long-term responses to immigrants’ multiple health care needs.

Keywords:   Argentine, immigrants, health, networks, social capital

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