Accepted paper:

'Wandering madness': local mental care in Port Gentil (Gabon)


Marie-Christine Lammers (Catholic University, Leuven)

Paper short abstract:

The example of 'wandering fools' in Port-Gentil inspires an analysis of Gabonese perspectives on the experience of mental illness. It challenges representatives of European psychiatric paradigms to reiterate a cross-cultural dialogue and not to remain insensitive to complementary healing opportunities covered by local medical knowledge systems.

Paper long abstract:

This papers aims at discussing the various ways the town of Port Gentil addresses mental health problems. More in particular, it is concerned with one specific example, being the notorious "fous errants", who are wandering in the center and outskirts of the city. These men and women without any known relatives or fixed residence are often encountered naked and delirious. They represent the very expression of a specific local imaginary that considers them as being 'on the threshold with an invisible world'. Very recently, a French psychiatrist has been invited to Port Gentil to discuss a possible assessment of these individuals, but his example, namely the implementation of the actual policy as widely diffused in the French metropoles for the SDF (sans domicile fixe), has encountered strong resistance by the local community and especially by the various representatives of indigenous healing practices. this papers highlights the problematic dialogue between various social imaginaries regarding the specific domain of public mental health in Port-Gentil.

panel IW07
Medical anthropology, Europe and the world