Get access

“My Heart Can't Do What It Wants”: Sadness and Learned Empathy in a Nahua Community



In this article, I draw on my experience as a friend and (honorary) daughter in a Nahua community in Guerrero, Mexico, to show how emotions and empathy between “informants” and the “anthropologist” were central to my work. Through examples involving sadness, I suggest that “learned empathy,” or the embodiment of a new emotional arrangement during long-term fieldwork, allows for a better understanding of some native conceptions. In addition, I introduce the concept of “emotionally contextualized discourse,” where affects are intensely expressed and complement the verbal message in a way that is consistent with indigenous communicative modes. I conclude that attention to these emotional components during fieldwork makes possible a more humanistic, dialogical research process.