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Author ORCID Identifier



Campus-Only Access for One (1) Year

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Felicity Aulino

Second Advisor

Lynnette Arnold

Third Advisor

Emiliana Cruz

Fourth Advisor

Carmen Fernandez

Fifth Advisor

Thomas Leatherman

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Social and Behavioral Sciences



My dissertation centers the healing processes and praxes of migrants from Central America who have suffered injuries resulting in amputations on their way to the US through Mexico atop an old freight train known as "La Bestia" (The Beast). My scholar activism is based on fieldwork and research conducted with amputated migrants recovering at rehabilitation centers in central Mexico and alongside the activist group Migrant Disabilities Organization (MDO) based in California. My contributions place emphasis on converging dialogues between Afro-Indigenous conocimiento/knowledge and theory from medical and linguistic anthropology (specifically Aulino’s phenomenological approach to the praxis of care and Arnold’s communicative care approach in the context of migration) through critically-engaged ethnographic fieldwork. In doing so, I link to and build on holistic and decolonial approaches for better understanding the structural conditions and colonialist discourses which instensify the violence of migration. In the face of these realities, I illuminate the process of healing and recovery, highlighting individual and collective acts of communal care manifested by migrants against the backdrop of capitalist crimmigration regimes and humanitarian/missionary aesthetic care set-ups.

I employ a language-based approach to mobility that centers embodiment and community to comprehend the hidden or silenced complexities of migration. I attempt to go beyond migration scholarship that has so well documented the structural apparatus of terror that enacts violence and places people in harm's way. Following Jasbir Puar and Jason De Leon, I argue that deliberate population debilitation and dismemberment are intentional colonial acts of violence to discourage migration. Nonetheless, against acts that seem all-powerful, I identify what I call “the corporal genre of migration testimonios” as a genre of communicative care ingrained in oral traditions of healing and communal care as a powerful tool for collective resistance.

I trace a connection between migration testimonios and Indigenous America’s oral traditional storytelling that emerge from specific ontologies of the body and emotions. Thus the corporal genre of migration testimonios can be understood as a functionalization or adaptation of oral genres of storytelling that guide ways of healing in community. My contention is that there are indigenous ways of processing grief that are not written yet are creative and literary and maintained and renewed in the present day.

Further, I suggest the corporal genre of migration testimonios engages listeners who, with mundane acts of care, resist the dehumanization of migrants. I focus on these mundane acts – such as medical staff opposing migrants' deportation, or women providing food for migrants from their own impoverished pockets – to explore how migrants build networks of care. While the scope of these acts of resistance is certainly limited, subtle everyday acts of care help us focus on the possibilities for decolonial forms of healing, grieving, and recovery.


Available for download on Wednesday, March 01, 2023