Tiffany Álvarez

Researcher | Co-Director

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Tiffany is a biocultural anthropologist who researches the Drug-Medicine-Food continuum, gender, and evolutionary perspectives on health, fertility, and culture change. Broadly, her research program endeavors to ensure equity in the health and status of women and marginalized communities, especially those undergoing acculturative stress.

Tiffany integrates cultural and evolutionary theory to identify the (macro-level) cultural forces that structure gender norms and examine how (micro-level) biocultural factors influence the reproductive decisions and tobacco use patterns of Latin American US migrants and Indigenous women living in Jujuy, Argentina. Her research contributes to an understanding of how sex-specific, psycho-physiological, mechanisms interact with culturally acquired, gender-specific, norms and meanings to shape critical health-related decisions and outcomes.

She is an advocate of community participation in the research process and is confident that collaboration and critical engagement of theory and praxis has the power to yield effective, just, and durable solutions.

• Evolutionary Medicine & Public Health

• Life History Theory

• Cultural Evolution

• Reproductive Ecology

• Cultural Consensus & Consonance

• Indigenous & Maternal Health

• Community-based research

• Quantitative & Qualitative Methods

• Latin America

Areas of concentration

As a researcher and woman of color, combating the structural and oppressive dynamics of inequity is a professional research aim and personal goal. The Western biomedical model of disease fails to account for the intersecting influences that ethnohistory, political-economic structures, and changing cultural identities/norms have on individual- and population-level wellbeing. My research highlights the inadequacy and danger of such decontextualized assumptions to ultimately contribute to their reform.

Ceremonial Tobacco Use

Following research questions concerning tobacco-use sex-differences and ancestral tobacco use norms, Tiffany has conducted research in Jujuy Argentina - a culturally rich and ecologically diverse province in the south-central Andes.

Across the Andes, a common ritual involving ceremonial tobacco use honors Pachamamá. In both the Quechua & Aymara language, “Pacha” means earth, universe, time, and space and “mama” means mother. Traditional Andean societies view earth, humanity, and the cosmos as one indissoluble unit and, as such, emphasize the importance of building a close and reciprocal relationship with Pachamama.

 

A feast for Pachamamá featuring, fruits, vegetables, traditional cuisine, beverages, cigarettes, and more.
 

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For thirty days, starting on August 1st, the beginning of the Andean agricultural New Year, people celebrate Pachamama through a ritual feast in which they symbolically and literally give to the Earth what it has given to them. Ritual participants feed mother earth in an expression of gratitude and sow seeds of hope for good luck in the year to come. In private or community gatherings, people come together and dig a bucket-sized hole in the ground in which they place produce, freshly cooked meals, diverse drinks, coca/tobacco leaves, and even cigarettes. In the Andes, tobacco and smoke are staple offerings that carry ancient symbolic value and serve important divination and purification functions, including in Pachamama festivities. In ceremonial contexts, tobacco is believed to be a relationship-building currency, the unifying thread of communication between physical and metaphysical planes.

 

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Cigarettes are lit using the coals of the earth and are afterward planted in the soil for Pachamamá to smoke.