HRI Faculty Spotlight, César Abadía-Barrero

"What does it mean to heal?"

"What does it mean to heal?" ()

César Abadía-Barrero is a jointly appointed Associate Professor of Anthropology and Human Rights at the University of Connecticut. Trained as a medical anthropologist, his work explores topics such as the impacts of capitalism, the right to health, communities of care, and collective healings of colonial wounds. In 2022, Abadía-Barrero received a Fulbright Fellowship award to support his project “Understanding peace building through Buen Vivir in Caquetá, Colombia.”

What does it mean to heal? Medical anthropologists and clinicians typically understand healing as a process that takes place within an individual body, a process that is negotiated between a patient and a medical practitioner. César Abadía-Barrero’s work challenges traditional notions of healing, wellbeing, and peace by employing indigenous epistemologies such as Buen Vivir

Translated to mean “good living,” “good life,” or “living beautifully,” Buen Vivir is an indigenous concept or framework for understanding the health and well-being of individuals, communities, and the environment. Found predominantly in the Andean region of South America, Buen Vivir, Abadía-Barrero describes, is “a way of life that prioritizes interconnectedness among humans, non-humans, and the rest of the natural world.”

Through a range of initiatives and projects in Caquetá, Colombia, Abadía-Barrero intends to establish a holistic measure of community well-being. In collaboration with community partners and local universities, they collectively approach issues of environmental degradation in a post-conflict context. “We are collaborating with members of this village on forest restoration, recuperation of water sources, community-based tourism and gardens of medicinal plants drawing on the ancestral knowledge of Buen Vivir,” explains Abadía-Barrero. 

With Buen Vivir we can propose alternatives to the human and environmental destruction of capitalism,” offering an opportunity to radically transform how communities understand and heal colonial wounds. 

Read more about the context and motivation for this research in UConn Today.