Anita Carrasco

Research Focuses on Healing Experiences

Carrasco was recently named the recipient of the 2016-18 Nena Amundson Professorship Award for her newest research project: Healers, Sorcerers and Misfortune: Indigenous Women’s Strategies for the Protection of their Health and Wellness.

“My research was triggered by past fieldwork experiences in Chile’s Atacama desert. I heard countless stories told by indigenous women there that centered on the theme of events involving a serious illness such as cancer and how those women rarely searched for the help of a medical doctor as their first choice, “ she says. “Instead, most of the narratives pointed to the women’s attempts at protecting themselves with the help of healers or sorcerers, depending on the nature of the misfortune they were experiencing, and the different areas of expertise covered by traditional indigenous healers (locally called yatiri) versus non-indigenous sorcerers. ”

Carrasco will work with one of her students to collect data during January 2018. “I suspect that many healers exercise a sort of ‘radical empathy’ and women search for an empathetic experience in their healing process,” she says. “I’m very excited to embark on this new learning adventure and bring a student along for the experience.”

How She Chose Anthropology

Carrasco was born and raised in a small mining town in northern Chile. Her father was a geologist and, when she was 9 years old, her family migrated to Australia where her father took a job with a gold mining company. “He didn’t want me growing up in a country governed by military rule where all our freedoms had been robbed,” she says. “Australia was an eye-opening experience for me. For the first time, other children were asking me if there were computers where I came from, if we slept on beds, and if we wore feathers on our heads. These questions had a deep imprint on me.”

It was the first time Carrasco realized that Chile was not the world, and that in places far away, other people viewed her in a very different light from how she perceived herself and who she was. “This childhood experience planted the initial seed that led me to decide to become an anthropologist as an adult,” she says. “I developed a fascination with understanding how culture shapes the way people view the world and others in it.”

Getting to Know Her Students is the Biggest Reward

“What I like best about being an anthropology professor at Luther College is that the small class sizes have allowed me to get to know my students as humans,” she says. “I remember their faces, names, dreams, and fears. It’s beautiful to see them grow over the years.”

Carrasco recalls students who entered her first-year classes and were shy and reserved. “Then I see them in their senior year and witness how they have blossomed intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s simply beautiful and inspiring for me as a teacher to know that I have contributed to this growth, even if in small ways. “

My own teachers taught me much more than content of a curriculum. They taught me values. My hope is to honor them by being the kind of teacher and role model that they were to me.

—Anita Carrasco