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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The curandera's daughters: Spirituality, art, and activism in the lives and works of Cherríe Moraga and Lila Downs
by Salazar, Sara H., Ph.D., California Institute of Integral Studies, 2014, 234; 3621056
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation explores the spiritual, artistic, and activist, lives and works of Chicana artists Cherríe Moraga and Lila Downs. It argues that these artists navigate their mestizaje, or mixed blood experiences, through their artwork to heal their soul wounds and transform their lives and communities. I ask: How do the lives and works of Moraga and Downs model potential spiritual and cultural transformation within the Chicana/o community?

Inspired by the lineage of traditional curanderas and Gloria Anzaldúa's frameworks of spiritual activism and Coyolxauhqui imperative, which are both steeped in the wisdom that the path of the artist is to find balance and healing, I begin this study by exploring the ways in which these artivistas (artists who use their art as activism) address and diagnose the wounds of conquest, colonization, and capitalism with regard to land loss, land conflict, and migration, respectively. In addition, I employ cultural history, narrative inquiry, and textual analysis as methodologies within a larger context of feminist, postcolonial, and queer theory to examine the lives and works of Moraga and Downs.

Next, I analyze the use of curanderismo and spiritual activism as spiritual tools that provide an authentic connection to pre-conquest ritual and spirituality and that offer individuals agency to envision the future. In addition, I examine how Moraga and Downs attempt to heal the wounds of their mestizaje (mixed race) lineage by infusing the ancient practice of curanderismo with nontraditional healing tools, such as la lucha (struggle) and flor y canto (flower and song).

The heart of this work is dedicated to exploring the ways in which Moraga and Downs craft nepantla (in between) spirituality and marry this spiritual tapestry with their political activism to create magic and transformation. I argue that the lives and works of Cherríe Moraga and Lila Downs are templates for healing and renewal and these transformative theories and practices offer a spiritual and communal technology that heals wounds inflicted by conquest, colonization, and capitalism.

This interdisciplinary dissertation highlights the lives and works of strong Chicanas in an effort to create a link between past and present-day women. The strength that Moraga and Downs exhibit throughout their works is a transformative healing model that has the potential to strengthen and empower generations of Chican@s to come.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Conner, Randy P.
Commitee: Arora, Alka, Medina, Lara
School: California Institute of Integral Studies
Department: Philosophy and Religion
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 75/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy, Womens studies, Spirituality
Keywords: Activism, Art, Chicana, Curanderismo, Healing, Spirituality
Publication Number: 3621056
ISBN: 978-1-303-91836-0
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