Accepted paper:

Silencing spirit voices: experiencing schizophrenia between psychiatry and ritual healing

Authors:

Helene Basu (Westfälische-Wilhelms-Universität)

Paper short abstract:

At a Muslim healing shrine, psychiatric consultations are conducted along with ritual healing. A man is diagnosed with schizophrenia and as a victim of a sorcery attack by his family. How do these seemingly contradictory types of diagnosis affect the subjectively experienced course of the illness?

Paper long abstract:

Cross-cultural research on schizophrenia lists India amongst those countries of the developing world considered to allow for a comparatively better course and outcome of severe mental disorder. This axiom, although contested on the basis of recent psychiatric evidence, is based on the idea that Indian family systems provide greater support and care for the afflicted. Family care, however, often takes the form of looking for help at religious healing sites. In the last decade, Indian psychiatrists have initiated projects of collaboration with ritual healers in order to reach out to people suffering from mental illness. This paper draws on ethnographic research of a project conducting psychiatric consultations at a Muslim healing shrine. It engages the case of a young man diagnosed with schizophrenia by the psychiatrist and as a victim of a sorcery attack by his family. How do these seemingly contradictory types of diagnosis affect the subjectively experienced course of the illness? Are they translatable into coherent experiences of distress? I shall explore these questions by analyzing the consequences of the psychiatric diagnosis focusing on the individual disorder becoming manifest in the behavior of the patient and of the ritual diagnosis distributing affliction amongst several members of the extended family. Negotiating diverse categories of diagnosis implies the making and unmaking of subjectivities of patients, family members, ritual healers and psychiatrists.

panel P33
Constructing diagnosis in 'mental health': the negotiation of categories, the encounter of subjectivities in South Asia