Mexican American Women’s Collective Narratives of Melancholia as Building Blocks of a Politicized Identity

    • Presentation speakers
      • Angie Mejia, Syracuse University, New York, USA


    This presentation focuses on how Mexican-American women understand and perceive their experiences with mental illness, focusing on the different ways the experience of depression, as a narrative of the self, is along different social positionalities (acculturation status, age, documentation, and language). I starts with participants’ first memories of events that led to their depression, framing them as significant “wounds of childhood memory” (Denzin 2013) that highlight times where depression was not part of their lives. I then focus on current experiences to show which symptoms and types of experiences under the umbrella of depression were salient in participants’ narratives and the various sources of and mechanisms they attributed to their current mental health state. I argue that living a day to day defined by Whiteness, privilege and various forms of oppression, as it intersects with gender (U.S. hegemonic understandings and practices of gender as well as those in their ethno-racial communities) was a significant defining aspect of depression. While these narratives show noteworthy differences between women, most participants converged on the idea of depression as a collective identity that is linked to their experiences as women of Mexican ancestry differently positioned in a matrix of domination constituted by intersecting forms of oppression and privilege (Collins 1990). In all, these narratives show Latinas, women of color and other marginalized people could build a political identity of shared vulnerability via illness that could help them envision healing via possible futures free from the precarious economic, political and social conditions that define their lives in the U.S.