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Our Most Troubling MadnessCase Studies in Schizophrenia Across Cultures$
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T.M. Luhrmann and Jocelyn Marrow

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780520291089

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520291089.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 28 September 2021

Madness Experienced as Faith

Madness Experienced as Faith

Temple Healing in North India

(p.127) Case 8 Madness Experienced as Faith
Our Most Troubling Madness

Anubha Sood

University of California Press

Spirit possession is what anthropologists call a common “idiom of distress” in India. That is, anthropologists observe that spirit possession is a way of behaving that signals emotional trouble. Spirit possession in India often begins with intense distress to the afflicted. However, through negotiation and attention to its desires, possessing spirits may be transformed from malevolent to beneficent. Sumita is a devotee and long-term resident of the Balaji temple in Rajasthan, India. After her marriage, demands for dowry, domestic violence, and Sumita’s growing awareness of the destructive spirits living in the walls of her husband’s home, her in-laws expel her from their home. After numerous stays in publicly-funded psychiatric facilities, she is brought by her father to the temple of Balaji, where she begins to hear the voice of the deity. Sumita manages to eke out a marginal existence by passing on the divine revelations of Balaji to worshipers at the shrine. In this way, her spirit possession may participate in the construction of a valued social identity in which voices and visions are signs of the divine and not solely associated with a permanent, crippling illness.

Keywords:   North India, South Asia, Spirit possession, Disorganized speech, Hearing voices, Hindu temples, Schizophrenia

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