1st Edition

Meaning, Madness and Political Subjectivity A study of schizophrenia and culture in Turkey

By Sadeq Rahimi Copyright 2015
    248 Pages
    by Routledge

    248 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book explores the relationship between subjective experience and the cultural, political and historical paradigms in which the individual is embedded. Providing a deep analysis of three compelling case studies of schizophrenia in Turkey, the book considers the ways in which private experience is shaped by collective structures, offering insights into issues surrounding religion, national and ethnic identity and tensions, modernity and tradition, madness, gender and individuality.

    Chapters draw from cultural psychiatry, medical anthropology, and political theory to produce a model for understanding the inseparability of private experience and collective processes. The book offers those studying political theory a way for conceptualizing the subjective within the political; it offers mental health clinicians and researchers a model for including political and historical realities in their psychological assessments and treatments; and it provides anthropologists with a model for theorizing culture in which psychological experience and political facts become understandable and explainable in terms of, rather than despite each other.

    Meaning, Madness, and Political Subjectivity provides an original interpretative methodology for analysing culture and psychosis, offering compelling evidence that not only "normal" human experiences, but also extremely "abnormal" experiences such as psychosis are anchored in and shaped by local cultural and political realities.

    Introduction  1. Culture, Schizophrenia, and The Political Subject  2. Old Peoples, New Identities: The Story of Turkey  3. Vicissitudes of Political Subjectivity: The Story of Emel  4. Power, Faith, and The Politics of Identity: The Story of Senem  5. Love, Loss, and a Language for Madness: The Story of Ahmet  6. Conclusions


    Sadeq Rahimi is Assistant Professor of Medical Anthropology and Associate Faculty in Psychiatry at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. He received his training in Cultural Psychiatry from McGill University, and in Child and Adult Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy from the Montreal Children's Hospital and the Boston Institute for Psychotherapy.

    'Perhaps Rahimi’s most valuable contribution to the literature, however, is the way he situates his
    work on schizophrenia (a most challenging diagnosis, as illustrated in Luhrmann and Marrow’s
    (2016) forthcoming book), with an eye towards recovery...Rahimi’s book moves the collective conversation about people with schizophrenia forward, suggesting that if we offer people a cogent present by listening to their stories and recognizing our shared humanity within them, then we can all play a role in advancing people’s attempts at recovery.'
    - Neely Myers, Anthropology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, USA, British Journal of Psychology

    'The case studies—Emel, Senem, Ahmet— are a tour de force of cultural interpretation.' - Arthur Kleinman, Professor of Medical Anthropology in Global Health and Social Medicine and Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, USA.

     ‘Psychiatry has stripped phenomenology down to its barest bones, counting symptoms and signs with little attention to context and meaning. In this creative ethnography, Sadeq Rahimi makes a bold counter-move, locating psychotic experience in the social, cultural and historical contexts of contemporary Turkey. Through gripping case studies, he shows how psychosis is deeply imbricated in local forms of life. Above all, he guides us toward a new politics of experience, grounded in understanding the interplay of power and meaning in subjectivity. The semiotics of political subjectivity that Rahimi develops advances our understanding of psychosis but it also has much to teach us about the ordinary madness of everyday life.’ – Laurence J. Kirmayer, MD, James McGill Professor and Director of the Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry, McGill University, Canada.

    ‘Sadeq Rahimi’s book takes us along a fascinating journey traversing disciplinary boundaries and conventional categories of knowledge. It introduces readers into an innovative, rigorous and sophisticated approach to transcultural psychiatry; it equally introduces a larger approach to the notion of political subjectivity that reflects the solidarity between meaning and power. Building on an intelligent and sensible analysis of personal and collective associative chains inhabiting schizophrenic patients’ narratives, the author demonstrates the degree to which private associations are embedded within semiotic landscapes and illustrates the necessity to be attentive to historical references colouring words and expressions.' - Ellen Corin, Associate Professor, Departments of Anthropology and Psychiatry, McGill University, Canada.

    ‘An uncommon work that provides powerful narrative materials to demonstrate that persons living with serious mental illness are every bit as ‘cultural’ and ‘political’ as their unafflicted counterparts. A forceful contribution to the study of schizophrenia as a paradigm case for the understanding of fundamental human processes.’ - Janis H. Jenkins, Professor of Anthropology and Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, USA.