Las Lloronas: Mujeres, Depression, and the Sociological Imagination

Date of Award

August 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Jackie Orr


Chicanxs, Depression, Emotions, Emotion Work, Latinxs, Psychotherapy

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Guided by an intersectional blueprint and inductive analysis of 45 in-depth interviews, autoethnographic reflections, and participant observations, this dissertation examines the experiences of US Latinx women of Mexican descent suffering from depression. I present a conceptual framework that (re)defines depression as an embodiment, positionality, and practice that reflects the unequal distribution of emotional distress in US racial/ethnic marginalized groups. This framework integrates theoretical insights from the sociology of emotions, critical race feminisms, and Chicanx theory and philosophy, to avoid most sociologists’ analytical dependency on biomedicalized knowledge(s) around depression. Findings suggest respondents’ depression narratives shared several key features: a grammar and story line that explained the start of their depression, schemas to interpret emotional distress, ways of navigating distressing social-situational contexts and spaces via emotion work, and a sense of collective suffering that could be mobilized in political ways. However, these ways of talking, framing, interpreting, and transforming depression also differed along intersectional lines defined by generation, language, documentation, and other statuses.

Respondents’ narratives radically redefined depression from a condition shaped by the presence, or absence of, physical and psychic symptoms to an embodied response to social inequality via emotional states. Chicanx feminist symbolic representations of monstrous femininities animate this entire dissertation; hence the title, Las Lloronas (the crying women.) Depression, inherited from La Llorona, becomes a shared sense of mourning to our loss of nation, language, dignity, safety, and livable futures. In all, depression is a collective weeping and wailing to a profound sense of social precarity and uncertainty.


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