From “Shrinks” to “Urban Shamans”: Argentine Immigrants’ Therapeutic Eclecticism in New York City
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This article examines Argentine immigrants’ reliance on informal networks of care that enable their access to a variety of health providers in New York City (NYC). These providers range from health brokers (doctors known on a personal basis) to urban shamans, including folk healers and fortunetellers of various disciplines. A conceptual framework, based on analysis of social capital categories, is proposed for the examination of immigrants’ access to valuable health resources, which are based on relationships of reciprocity and trust among parties. Results revealed immigrants’ diverse patterns of health-seeking practices, most importantly their reliance on health brokers, epitomized by Argentine and Latino doctors who provide informal health assistance on the basis of sharing immigrants’ social fields and ethnic interests. While mental health providers constitute a health resource shared by Argentines’ social webs, urban shamans represent a trigger for the activation of women’s emotional support webs. Contrary to the familiar assumption that dense and homogenous networks are more beneficial to their members, this article underscores the advantages of heterogeneous and fluid social webs that connect immigrants to a variety of resources, including referrals to diverse health practitioners.