EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world

Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006

(W003)

Feeling and curing: senses and emotions in medical anthropology

Location Victoria Recital
Date and Start Time 20 Sep, 2006 at 11:30

Convenors

Elisabeth Hsu (University of Oxford) email
Galina Lindquist (University of Stockholm) email
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Short Abstract

This session explores the connections between perception, emotion and bodily symptoms of disease involved in various cultural settings and kinds of treatment, from Western biomedicine to traditional medicine and faith-healing.

Long Abstract

Students of healing in non-Western contexts have long noted that healing performances work in multidimensional aesthetic modes, and that their efficacy lies in changing the sensibilities of the patient. Different aspects of healing are directed to activate their senses, physically shifting their perceptive, and thus their physical realities, engaging sight, smell, taste and kinaesthesia. Since sensory perception and emotions are closely connected with bodily states, they should be taken into account in understanding different varieties of healing process, in Western biomedicine as well as in non-Western medical systems. This session will take a closer look at pathways of healing that engage senses. It will explore the connections between perception, emotion, meaning and bodily symptoms that are involved in various cultural settings and diverse kinds of treatment. Our aim is to bring together students of Western biomedicine and those of ritual, traditional medicine and faith-healing, to examine differences and similarities in seemingly vastly different paradigms of body, health and treatment.

Papers

A sensual route of healing: triggering embodiment in the Greek 'evil eye'

Author: Eugenia Roussou (CRIA/FCSH-Universidade NOVA de Lisboa)  email
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Long Abstract

Evil eye in Greece is the belief that the human eye, through gazing, and the human mouth, through gossiping, has the power to cause symptoms of illness on the individual body. These somatic effects cannot be removed unless a certain religious ritual practice is performed. A practice which is multi-dimensional and varied, yet it always involves the engagement of the senses. Sight, taste, hearing and touch are multiply activated while the healing process is on its way, and they play a significant role in the path of patients' return to a health-state. During this course of treatment, what evil-eyed individuals feel and the emotion they exchange with their healer is considered vital for their physical shifting to a healthy embodiment. Consequently, healing is achieved only when the interaction among the mode in which people use, perceive and feel their body, the intertwining of sensualities and sensibilities, and the emotional mobility grows to be meaningful.

Milk, juniper and the drum

Author: Galina Lindquist (University of Stockholm)  email
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Long Abstract

Traditional healing in non-western societies has been theorized as a way to reorient the embodied self in the cosmological order and to realign the sufferer as a moral person in the local social universe. Ritual healing has often been treated as 'traditional' in symbols and ritual designs, even though the notion of 'tradition' itself has been deconstructed and related to postmodernity, postcolonialism and globalization. What happens to 'traditional' healing in the contexts of cultural revitalization, when tradition itself is excavated, revived, contested, and used on the political arena as an instrument of identity building? These questions are analysed on the example of a shamanic healing ritual as it is practiced in the post-socialist Tuva, an autonomous republic on the outskirts of the Russian Federation, in Southern Siberia. This ritual is built around intense stimulation of basic senses such as vision, hearing and smell, and predicated upon indexical impulses of touch, employed by different practitioners in different degrees. At the same time, the elements and symbols that are likely cognitively decoded, and that belong to 'traditional' Tuvan shamanism, globalized neo-shamanism, Buddhism, and Russian-style faith healing are tossed together in various combinations chosen at will by different practitioners. Yet, this complex healing performance contains a modicum of symbols and ritual elements that are shared across the spectrum of local Tuvan shamanic specialists, and between shamans and Buddhist lamas. Does this healing work indexically or symbolically, physically or cognitively? What do these core symbols tell us about the local cosmology and Tuvan cultural universe? This paper juxtaposes a classical approach to healing rituals as signifying practices in the attempt to get a glimpse of their cultural signifiers with seeing these rituals as 'awakening senses', which, in semiotic terms, would be acting indexically. The latter touches on the most general mechanisms of healing, while the former can be one of the few remaining ways to make out threads of coherent cultural meaning and value, concealed under the morass left behind by post-communist, post-colonial transformations.

The healer's piano: politics of senses and feelings in Western Music Therapy practices

Author: Leonardo Menegola (ANEB, Milan)  email
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Long Abstract

Western Music Therapy (MT) engages forms of sensoriality and expression in force of which the therapist's and patient's bodies work as vehicles of mutual communicative dynamics. In MT "therapeutic" settings, connections between perception, emotion and bodily symptoms and states are established on a performative ground.

Drawing evidence from a set of MT improvisational sessions in Italy, England and Finland, this paper discusses how communicative-musical and bodily-sensorial interactions can convey specific politics of senses, emotions and bodily expressions. A sensorial pedagogy or bodily education stands out as the condition by which the "therapeutic relationship" is provided with proper modes of being performed. Original treatment techniques are employed, which often borrow elements from remote healing traditions, thus connecting local and global, nearby-grounded and cosmopolitan knowledge. Furthermore, the musical interactions I observed, and participated in, embody complex sets of ideas and beliefs. MT methods of touching and hearing, proposing and interacting speak to a distinctive ideology of healing with its own categorizations of illness and well-being, of the person (body-Self) and the patient, of knowledge and (sensed and felt) experience. By peculiarly structuring senses, emotions and the body, medical efficacy stricto sensu is no longer the core-goal of therapeutic performance, leaving place to other conceptions of "transformation", "quality of life", "symbolicalness" and "collaboration".

In the conclusion, I argue the relevance of addressing MT from an anthropological perspective. Actually, an ethnography of MT performance puts into question the classical "five senses" schema, and calls for multimodal approaches to senses and to emotional perception as spheres of mental activity that can never be totally separated. In this perspective, senses and emotions, though classically thought of as autonomous, practically stand on the very same ontological, cognitive-behavioural, and phenomenological level.

Senses and emotions in 'family constellation therapy according to Bert Hellinger'

Author: Ehler Voss (University of Siegen)  email
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Long Abstract

Especially in Germany, many therapists refer to Bert Hellinger and his sort of family constellation therapy, which is becoming increasingly popular. In this, illnesses, unpleasant bodily feelings, and other irksome problems of life are traced back to the patient's family system which is supposedly not in the right order - a posited symbolic order which many consider to be obsolete. The starting point of the therapy has the patients selecting people from the present audience to position them in a room as representatives of their dead or living family members or of other non-human aspects of their problems. During the therapeutic process the main focus lies on bodily symptoms, sensual perceptions and emotions of the representatives which the therapists instruct them to report on in detail and which are considered to be the authentic feelings of those people and things they stand for. These bodily experiences are interpreted for the diagnosis and constantly influence the further development of therapy which consists in relocating the representatives and in vocalizing given sentences which then should alter the bodily feelings of the others. The aim of the therapy is to find a constellation, which ends with all representatives feeling agreeable; in general this is then supposed to influence the 'real' individuals.

This paper discusses the representative's bodily experiences concerning which senses and emotions are involved, how they are handled and interpreted, how the required unusual bodily awareness of the representatives tends to establish special 'somatic modes of attention' in regular participants as well as how the intensity of the experiences causes participants to believe in the efficacy of the performance leaving behind even the most critical participant at least ambivalent towards the therapy.

Tactile diagnostics for investigating visceral states of the body: how an interest in emotion transformed medicine in early Han China

Author: Elisabeth Hsu (University of Oxford)  email
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Long Abstract

One of the prime achievements of elite medical practitioners in early Han China was that they medicalised emotion. They became interested in determining the state of the viscera, which probably became important in medicine, not so much as proto-anatomical entities, as some have suggested, but because they were conceived of as seats of emotion. Once the physicians became interested in excessive emotion, primarily as a cause of illness, they had to know about their patients' visceral states. The language of emotion was one that alluded to qi, and qi accumulated in the seats of emotion, i.e. it was stored in the viscera. Rather than relying on visual inspection of vessels (mai), as diviners and doctors had done in the late Warring States to detect exuberance and insufficiency, Han elite physicians started to palpate the vessels, which connected to the viscera and were affected by their agitations and impulsions, qi. The paper argues that tactility in diagnostics gained in importance among the ranks of the elite as, in a regulatory fashion, excessive emotion was medicalised.

Physical meanings in sensory magic

Author: Koenraad Stroeken (Ghent University)  email
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Long Abstract

Healing practices permeate the everyday life, decision-making and search for innovation among Sukuma farmers in Tanzania. Medicinal remedies and accompanying rituals not only treat illness but give protection against misfortune or assist in business, dance and romance. Any serious therapy means cult membership for life. The simplest magical recipe envisages experiential transformation by working on a both sensory (receptive) and emotional (expressive) level. First, each recipe specializes in sensory modes such as the visual, tactile or olfactory. Secondly, the magical ingredients convey meanings, in clear analogy with prefixes and suffixes composing Bantu words. The meanings inhere the physical objects with a particular emotional quality or 'code' affecting the participants. Sensory modes, I thus argue, are crosscut by experiential codes. Vision is not by definition intrusive (as in ocularcentric science); it can be seductive or comforting. I discuss how Chwezi initiation manages to shift codes, from intrusive possession to synchronous mediumship. Participants learn to supplement the classic exteroceptive, proprioceptive and interoceptive senses with what could be called an 'ulteroceptive' sense, where states of the world enter the spirit-medium. Here perception and emotion become one. More common forms of ulteroception remind of 'gut feelings'. They take place in the individual's stomach and liver, registering respectively happiness and conflict in the clan.

The healing stench: Sulphurous hydrotherapy and the ways of countermedicalisation.

Author: Cristiana Bastos (University of Lisbon)  email
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Long Abstract

Back in the 1970s and afterwards, social scientists sustained that the expansion of biomedicine and its cultural hegemony would erase folk medicines and abolish vernacular healing practices. Further research on the interaction between different medical systems has shown otherwise: practices and beliefs from supposedly contradictory systems coexist and form original compounds, shared by large or restricted groups. The notion of a progressive surveillance, medicalization and normatization of the bodies and bodily practices gave place to a more complex understanding of the interactions between biomedicine and other healing systems. In this paper I will contribute to that discussion by analysing how hydrotherapy in general, and the use of sulphurous waters in particular, can be shown as a case where folk practices and beliefs influence conventional physicians and health care providers. Using data from an extensive inquiry into Portuguese mineral water sources and spas and from participant immersion in sulphurous atmospheres, I will analyse the role of the ritual use of sacred waters in the tensions and transformations of the water spas industrial-medical complex.

Sensing sensors, living in illness and dwelling on IT

Author: Patrick Laviolette (Tallinn University)  email
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Long Abstract

Longstanding chronic illnesses are replacing the prevalence of disabling and fatal infectious diseases in the West. One such type consists of organic systems degeneration which includes most cardiovascular diseases such as chronic heart failure (CHF). Such conditions, associated with relatively high affluence and extended longevity, can often be regulated domestically. Since the UK presently has the highest proportion of residents over the age of 65 in Europe, the Department of Health has invested up to £80 million in providing telecare assistive technology nationally within 5 years. Introducing such systems into the home is meant to save time, bed-space and money for health services. At a participatory level, the rationale is to allow outpatients a greater control over their own condition and an emotional independence from institutionalisation. By recording their own weight and blood pressure on a daily basis as well as regularly responding to computerised health questions, there is an argument that CHF sufferers can become more aware of their own bodies and illness through telecare. Yet the concern over the reduction in human contact remains. Indeed, the counter argument even suggests that such initiatives increase the ways in which the gaze of medical surveillance is disembodying - delimiting our freedom and moulding patients into docile bodies. This paper explores the implementation of telecare in relation to the self-sufficiency of older CHF sufferers living in South Yorkshire. It asks how their independence, mobility and emotional experiences can be improved. Lifestyle monitoring, in the wider context of telecare packages, has recently emerged as an option to explore. But monitoring someone's lifestyle with sensor equipment is difficult to achieve for many reasons. The paper thus considers the issues involved in gauging people's daily routines by gathering sequenced information about their domestic use of objects and space. In examining the everydayness and physical experiences of living with such home-based medical monitoring schemes, we address the relationship between telecare lifestyle monitoring and the NHS's attempts at formulating Britain as a technologically dependant and increasingly virtual Welfare State. In these terms we shall focus on the bodily and, in particular, the a-corporal dynamics involved in the health monitoring surveillance of telecare. We also question the possibilities whereby placebo effects might arise through dwelling with IT.

Psychiatric care and experiences of healing in Denmark

Author: Francine Lorimer (University of Copenhagen)  email
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Long Abstract

A study of people in a psychiatric hospital receiving treatment for major depression. The paper explores how these patients engaged with the various treatments in ways that were social, bodily and spiritual. It will be shown how modes of bodily agency corresponded with the language people used to express their condition.Central themes will be: the different ways in which patients expressed feelings; the extent to which they believed their feelings were connected with their depression; how feeligns were connected with an experience of healing; and whether experiences of healing took place without any reference to feelings.

Mental healing from chado, tea ceremony

Author: Kaeko Chiba (Bristol University)  email
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Long Abstract

Chado is known as a Japanese traditional art form and many women practice chado in Japan. Based on my fieldwork in Akita city, Japan, I argue that chado is used as a cure for mental depression for women. At practitioners' keiko (daily practice), they practice temae (tea procedure) and through temae, practitioners acquire bodily and mental discipline. This concept of bodily and mental discipline is derived from Zen Buddhism. Zen Buddhism believes that enlightenment emerges through the status of mu (emptiness or nothingness) and in chado, practitioners are trained to keep their minds empty. In this mu status, practitioners are not even allowed to think about the order of a tea procedure and teachers assert that this mental discipline only evolves through bodily discipline. Bodily discipline is obtained by repetition of keiko and this keiko emphasizes sensory experiences: practitioners have to imitate, repeat and remember temae not through their brain but through their body senses. Practitioners memorize the appropriate temperature of hot water through their skin, listen and memorize the sound of the boiling kettle through their ears. After acquiring this bodily discipline, practitioners can reach to their mental discipline: mu condition and on this mu status, practitioners become comfortable to control their emotion. By experiencing this bodily and mental control, some practitioners comment that chado helps to calm themselves in their mundane life and eventually improves their depressed condition. In chado, there is a connection between sensory experiences: bodily discipline and emotions/feelings: mental discipline, and these disciplines are strongly connected to therapeutic process.

Pain, guilt and gratitude: sensory deprivation and emotions in Naikan

Author: Per Drougge (Stockholm University)  email
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Long Abstract

Despite its Cartesian grounds, Western medicine seems to implicitly acknowledge a body-mind unity through its notion of psychosomatic disease, where bodily disorders are understood as being caused by, or an expression of, a distress of the mind. The opposite causation, where bodily interventions (ranging from neuro-surgery to medication) are used to modify the mind, is also widely acknowledged. The efficacy of such procedures has also been a convenient way to sidestep the problematic mind-body dualism in favour of a more or less subtle reductionism. This paper explores another way of transforming the embodied mind. Naikan is a therapy or healing technique based on a Japanese form of Buddhist asceticism, which in the last thirty years has made into the West, where it holds a place on the margins of the so-called "awareness movement". Naikan could be seen as a reversal of many popular notions regarding psychotherapy as it deals with the client's current difficulties through an investigation of her (unacknowledged) debt of gratitude and wrongdoings toward others, rather than the harm caused the self by others. In Naikan "therapy" the client is instructed to investigate her history and relations to significant others in the light of the following questions: "What did I receive?", "What did I return?", and "What harm did I cause?" Such introspection often results in strong feelings of guilt and self-reproach as well as gratitude, and a cathartic state of deep repentance (J. zange), resulting in positive emotional and behavioral changes. Most research on Naikan has focused on the cognitive impact of such questioning. This paper will discuss the bodily impact and sensory perceptions which seems to play an important role in the transformative process through an analysis of the highly ritualized form of the Naikan retreat, where prolonged isolation, immobility and a meditation like inward focus play an important role.

'Is it all in the head?': participant observation and the study of pain

Author: Gabriella Aspraki (University of Crete)  email
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Long Abstract

Does participant observation, social anthropology's distinctive research method, meet its limits in the study of pain? Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork currently underway at a Hospital Pain Clinic in Southern Greece, this paper addresses the implications of the question above. Despite the expanding literature on medical anthropology, relatively limited attention has been paid to pain. Pain is an experience which is deeply individual while at the same time it is culturally and historically constituted. It constitutes a field of encounter and negotiation between the sufferers, their families, physicians and nurses, the insurance bureaucracies. In this complex nexus of relations, dynamics, practices and meanings important questions are raised both for the method of participant observation and for the place of the ethnographer in the field. If, pace Scarry, pain is an experience which overwhelms the person in pain but is absolutely absent to the observer, then what and how does the ethnographer observe? In this case of observing the un-observable, can the ethnography of the senses and emotions open up a field of inter-subjective understanding between sufferer and ethnographer?