Meaning, Madness and Political Subjectivity: A study of schizophrenia and culture in Turkey, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Meaning, Madness and Political Subjectivity

A study of schizophrenia and culture in Turkey, 1st Edition

By Sadeq Rahimi


248 pages

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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.


'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.

Table of Contents

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

About the Author

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.

About the Series

The International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis Book Series

ISPS (The International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis) has a history stretching back more than five decades, during which it has witnessed the relentless pursuit of biological explanations for psychosis. This tide has been turning in recent years and there is growing international interest in a range of psychological, social and cultural factors that have considerable explanatory traction and distinct therapeutic possibilities. Governments, professional groups, people with personal experience of psychosis and family members are increasingly exploring interventions that involve more talking and listening. Many now regard practitioners skilled in psychological therapies as an essential component of the care of people with psychosis.

A global society active in at least twenty countries, ISPS is composed of a diverse range of individuals, networks and institutional members. Key to its ethos is that individuals with personal experience of psychosis, and their families and friends, are fully involved alongside practitioners and researchers, and that all benefit from this collaboration.

ISPS’s core aim is to promote psychological and social approaches to understanding and treating psychosis. Recognising the humanitarian and therapeutic potential of these perspectives, ISPS embraces a wide spectrum of therapeutic approaches from psychodynamic, systemic, cognitive, and arts therapies, to need-adapted and dialogical approaches, family and group therapies and residential therapeutic communities. A further ambition is to draw together diverse viewpoints on psychosis and to foster discussion and debate across the biomedical and social sciences, including establishing meaningful dialogue with practitioners and researchers who are more familiar with biological-based approaches. Such discussion is now increasingly supported by empirical evidence of the interaction of genes and biology with the emotional and social environment especially in the fields of trauma, attachment, social relationships and therapy.

Ways in which ISPS pursues its aims include international and national conferences, real and virtual networks, and publication of the journal Psychosis. The book series is intended to complement these activities by providing a resource for those wanting to consider aspects of psychosis in detail. It now also includes a monograph strand primarily targeted at academics. Central to both strands is the combination of rigorous, in-depth intellectual content and accessibility to a wide range of readers. We aim for the series to be a resource for mental health professionals of all disciplines, for those developing and implementing policy, for academics in the social and clinical sciences, and for people whose interest in psychosis stems from personal or family experience. We hope that the book series will help challenge excessively biological ways of conceptualising and treating psychosis through the dissemination of existing knowledge and ideas and by fostering new interdisciplinary dialogues and perspectives.

For more information about ISPS, email or visit our website,  

For more information about the journal Psychosis visit

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Psychopathology / General
PSYCHOLOGY / Psychopathology / Schizophrenia
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health