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Path Poss[2]. AOC 14(2) - 2003 27 Pathologizing Possession...

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Unformatted text preview: 2003 27 Pathologizing Possession: An Essay on Mind, Self, and Experience in Dissociation Ash win Budden University of California, San Diego, Anthropology 9500 Gilman Dr.. La Jolla, CA, 920930332 [email protected] edu Abstract inthispaper.lcritiqueuSeclassicpsychoanalyticanthropologicalconstrualofdissodative spirit possession as a pathological phenomenon. I review some of the relevant theoretical and ethnographic literature on this subject but focus on the work of two prominent psychoanalytic anthropologiststo explore divergent viewsof the psychological nature of pathological and religious experience. Em phasis is placedon the necessity fortakingintoaccount the culture specific factors that shape dissociative possession, particularly with regard to spiritual experiences. I also move beyond this view to an embodiment approach that is useful for analyzing the experiential ground of spirit possession, and thus for providing insight into how particular individual and cultural realities are constructed through dissociation. Key words: dissociation, embodiment, possession, psychoanalytic anthropology,self "Perception is never an absolute revelation ol 'what is'"-A.l. Hallovvell (\i)z>^-. 84) Introduction The corpus on spirit possession encompasses many disci plines(anthropology, psychology, and psychiatry), and their vary ing methods. Despite the robust data on possts>ed individuals. possession groups, and possession states, it is surprising that there remains little >v stoniatic LonMiouiiKSi I4« J ) : 2 7 - 5 9 . ( .'o|>\rigln «, 2<M>i A I I H T H J I I \nlln•>)>.>l<>^i. j | A ^ M R I J I 28 Anthropology of Consciousnesi treatment of this topic betweendisciplines and, to someextent, withindisciplines(Bourguignon 196^; personal correspondence 2000). Although this paper can hardly do justice to this problematic state of affairs, it examines and critiques a prominent school of thought that has informed much of the study of dissociative possession in the social and psychiatric sciences, the psychoanalytic tradition. Whileearly forays into spirit possession were primarily the domain of comparative religious studies (Bourguignon 1965), psychoanalytic theorists and culture and personality theorists in anthropology became interested in t he intersections ofdeeper structures of mind, behavior, and encultu ration that shaped possession phenomena. Within this paradigm, however, possession was conceptualized in terms of its relation to and presentation of clinical pathologies. In this respect, traditional (Freudian) psychoanalytic-oriented questions of unconscious conflicts and motivations, defense mechanisms, and psychological alienation pertaining to spirit possession could be weighed on an absolute scale of pathology and normalcy. In as much as this formulation introduced itsown setsof insightsand problems, itsscope extended toa deeper quandary at the heart of anthropological inquiry: how to account for cultural variance along the psychic unity of humankind. The debate bet ween relativistsanduniversalists in anthropology continues to pit divergent interpretivistandobjectivist discourses against each other in regard to the understanding of how people with shared biology and psyche live such different cultural lives'. Proponentsof universalism.suchas psychoanalytic anthropologist Mel Spiro, u phold the notion of humanity V psychic unity, maintaining that: because all human beings are the product of a common evolutionary history, hence constitute a single biological species, it can be presumed that they all share a set of biologically determined psychological characteristics-Althoughhuman beingsare members ofdiflerent social groups with different social systems, all social systemsalsoexhibit manv common features some of which ... are arguably the social determinants of a common set of human psychological characteristics. 200i 2V I s upport this assertion yet I a m critical of the general manner in which it has been used to justify an overly objectivist account of mind and experience. In this view it ispresupposedthat the absolute truth of the nature and organization of mind and the "real world" can best be understood through the application of rigorous empirical methods. It follows that the normal functioningof the mind should necessarily conform to"universallynormaTconditioiisas defined solely by empirically-based judgments that privilege biology.The human world is, t hus, c omposed of a l a b o r a t o r y of human cultures,"to use Ruth Benedict's phrase, in w hich amonolithictheory of mind and behavior can be tested across different societies. Although rigorous empirical approaches have yielded substantial evidence about brain and behavior, they have provided relatively insufficient explanatory modelsol thedimensionsofreligiousandpsychopathological experiences and their variabilitvacross societies. To take the subject ofthis p aper, s pirit possession, as an example, the proponentsof objectivism construe it to be largely pathological because it is frequently constituted by mental and behavioral experiences that are labeled brejkdonvs in reality testing, t o use the psychoanalytic parlance, and because these experiences bear a resemblance t o clinicallv-defineddissociativeand psychotic disorders (Hollan 2000a). Thispapertakesa critical approach to these assertions primarily because they overlook the prevalence of possession practices in many cultures as normative behavior and their local instantiations as therapeutic and devotional practice. Additionally, they overlook cultural contexts for learning how t o b e possessed (such asritual initiation) in favor of viewsthat privilege their etiology in traumatic experiences. Lastly, they discount the significance of embodied experiences (e.g., senson -motor andaffective processes) asagenerative forces lor conceptualizing personal, social, and sacred"realities." In these respects, it is important t o consider whether or JO Anthropology of Consciousness notthis paradigm of normality and abnormal ity is sufficient for analyzingthe diversity of possession beliefs and practices. The general anthropological trend in the last several decades has been to turn to cultural ly-relativistic and interpretive approaches that discard notionsof our shared biological and psychological realities and defend notions "otherness" and, in the extreme, the incommensurability of human societies. While such approaches have provided important insights into the cultural patterning of know ledge and action they have also perpetrated a similar overdeterminism that overlooks important ways that culture and biology interact. Moreover, thev tend to render disparate societies and culture itself like anchor-less boats adrift on a sea of unpredictable currents. Indeed, it seems that zealous adherence to either pole of positivism or relativism encourages reductive ideology that misrepresents the myriad wayshuman experience isconstructed from both shared underlying psychological and biological processes and particular cultural models. It is the goal of this paper to examine how questions of cultural diversity and psychic unity have been approached in the study of spirit possession and dissociation in psychoanalytic anthropology and to suggest how they can be reconceived to better account for, in Robert Paul's terms,"what one 'sown actual experience of being alive is like"(Paul 1990:4? 5). Pursuant to this, 1 will discuss how an embodiment approach is useful for reconceptualizing the dissociative experience of possession and how it moves beyond the limitations of the objectivistinterpret* vist dichotomy. To ensure some manner of'our own anchoring, 1 will begin with a look at two classic sources in psychoanalytic anthropology to examine the nature of pathology and cultural and subjoctiveexperiemv in spirit possession. One is GannanathObevesekere's.l/eJuu/ \ Huir( 1987), an ethnography of possession among cult priestesses- in Sri I anka. The other is Mel Spiro's 2003 i\ theoretical critique of Obeyesekere and exegesis of symptom and symbol from the chapter "Culturally Const itutedDefensesandPsychopathology"in Gen der Ideologt and Psychological Reali Dissociation and possession Before turningto Spiro and Obeyesekere'sanalysesofspirit possession, it may be useful to offer an initial description of the place of possession within the larger scope of dissociative phenomena. Within theWestern intellectual tradition, dissociative states are usually discussed inapathologicalandclinical context. Dissociative possession, or possession-rrunce, has also been considered to be an unusual or exotic phenomenon. Bourguignonand Evascu (1977), however, Found that in a world-wide sample of+88 societies, 417 (89.5%) displayed naturally occurring possession-trance or non-possession-trance states. Although more contemporary statistics would surely be illuminating, these findings, nevertheless, suggest acertain ubiquity of dissociative states across human societies. Given thisdatum, one must question the view of dissociative possession as unitary psychological state or as ageneralized pathological phenomenon if one considers the degree to which it is embedded within historical and cultural contexts (Hollan 2000a). It isalsonecessary toclarify the relationshipof possession toconceptslike"trance"or "dissociation." In Leacock and Leacock's (1972) canonical ethnography of Batuque, an AfroBrazilian spiritisttradition, possession is defined as"the presence in the human body ofasupernatural being"and'trance' as"an altered psychological state"( 1972:2 17 n. 1). Although the Leacocks employ the term"trance-possession," it would be mistaken to regard the termsas synonymous. Firstly, possession typically refersto the beliefin the voluntary or spontaneous interaction with or incorporation of a benevolent and malevolent spirit and the subjective experience of incorporating a spirit. The culturally salient beliefin the reality of possession can, in turn, have J2 Anthropology of Consciousness consequences for individual behavior and social relations. Secondly, possession can occur without atrance state. The Ethiopian Zarcult and some Brazilian spiritist group, for example, believe the etiology of many types of diseasesand maladies isa possessing spirit, butthen induce trance after one is said t o have been possessed in order to communicate with the spirit (Lewis 1971). Lastly, possession can be understood in termsof possession-trance,or dissociative possession, in whichthe experience of incorporating a spirit is concom itant w ith cognitive and psychophysiological modifications in the conscious state. W hile acknowledging these various permutationsof spirit possession, it is dissociative possession with which we are mostly concerned. Admittedly, both a trance"and"di ssociation"areambiguousterms with respecttonon -ordinary statesof consciousness and tend to impose a negative connotation of being disconnected from reality. However, "dissociation" isthemore suitable referent for our purposes, given its clinical usage and, therefore, its relevance to the discussion of pathology. A typical clinical definition of dissociation isthe incapacity to integrate one's thoughts, feel ings, or ex periences into one's present consciousness (e.g., Bernstein and Putnam 1986). A more common notion is that of "splitting" from typical conscious awareness. Dissociative symptoms have been implicated in a diverse range of psychopathologies such as dissociative identity disorder (DSM-IV-TR 2000), post-traumatic stress disorder, de personalization syndrome, fugue states, amnesia and schizophrenia (Goldberg 1999; Krippner 1987). In The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ( 4 Ul e dition, lext Revision) dissociative trance disorder is categorizedasa"non-specifieddisorder"that is"indigenousto particular locations and cultures. '*' Despite the clinical categorization of dissociation as pathological, the underlying neurocognitive mechanisms of dissociation seem to consist of'fai'rly consistent actions and potentials associated with different "levels" of consciousness. According to neodissociation 2 00i J3 theory proposedby trnest Hilgard (1986), consciousnessoperates along separate neural pathways that assume a hierarchical system of cognitive control with largely independent modes of information processing.The"highest"levelsare characterized by executivecontrol, awareness, volition and initiative. During dissociation our perception, cognition, and control of behavior may become relegated to"lower" levels that remain largely unconscious, but nevertheless can modify feelings and volition of the individual. Additionally, dissociation can be marked by a breakdown in spatial awareness and self-orientation associated with of particular patterns of activation and deactivation in functional neuro-cortical regions (Winkelman 1986). Schumaker( 1991) maintains that dissociation is abasic feature of cognitive and neural function that is part of our adaptive evolutionary heritage and, therefore, should not necessarily be considered a priori a pathological state. Although dissociation is associated with clinical psychopathologies, Schumaker associates dissociation with neural economy in information processing as well as with adaptive reality transcendence that allows people to cope with certain existential and pragmatic crises. He also points out that human'scapacitytodissociate underlies the basicfacilitiesofsleepinganddreaming and diverse culturally-specificbehaviors such asclinical hypnosis, meditation, drug-induced states including shaman ic soul-flight, glossolalia, and spirit medium ship. With these descriptions in m ind, dissociative spirit possession can also be considered a culturally specific behavior or set of behaviors that are associated with normal, but dramatic alterations in neuro-cognitive functionsand psychological experience. Although psychological and behavioral dimensionsmay often seem peculiar andeven threatening tothose unaccustomed to them, Hollan states that "possession behavior that is culturally normative, no matter how i4 Anthropologt of Consciousness bizarre and irrational it appears from a Western Point of view, should never be considered pathological or psychotic, at least as we use those terms normally" (Hollan 2000a: 546). On Symptom and Symbols I can now focus on Spiro and Obeyesekere's examination of spirit possession. In psychoanalytic anthropology spirit possession is often described as being associated with psychological and behavioral disturbances resulting from peoples'past traumaticand distressful experiences, usually during childhood (Hollan 2000a). Generally, people developsi mpromsof their severe emotional traumas that arise from consciousand unconsciousconflictsai id guilt and the painful affect and memories associated with those emotional traumas. Often, cultural symbols areemployedtotrytomanagetheintrapsychicconflictandtheextemalbehavioral manifestations. Spiro (1997)describesthesesymbolsas'*culturallyconstituteddefense mechanisms." In this view actorscan employ fantasy and action systems.suchasrelig ion, to resolve inner conflicts. In Spire's logicculturally constituted defensestypically"precludetheoutbreak of pathology"( 1965:107). For example, in Spiro's analysis of Burmese Buddhist monks, their Rorschach tests show symptomatic features such as"latent homosexual itv,"above average fear ofmother figures and other females, and regressive expressions of aggressive and oral drives which Spiro sees as pathological. However, the monastic tradition, as a culturally constituted defense (symbol) permits the monks to reduce theiranxietiesandsatiate their drives"in a disguised-and therefore socially acceptable manner, one which excludes psychotic distortion" (1965:109). In many societies, spirit possession experiences are important psychospiritual means through which this process is carried out. However. Spiro and Obeyesekere differ in their interpretations of possession as a culturally constituted defense. Obeyesekere postulates that 200} 35 possession experiences offer the means for transforming symptoms of emotional distress into symbols throughculturally sanctioned dissociative and spiritual experiences, thereby allowing the afflicted to resolve psychic conflict, overcome their traumas, and to achieve personal transformation. In contrast Spiro maintains that someof the central characteristicof dissociative possession, (e.g. .experiences that the practitioner believesto be direct encounters with deities) are, in fact, pathological because they are psychoticepisodesthat represent breakdownsin reality • testing. Furthermore, they do not actually resolve psychic conflicts nor are they transformative, asObeyesekeresuggests. Inshort, what Obeysekereconsiderstransformativeexperiencesof cultural symbol and self whichare achieved through possession, Spiro sees as culturally constituted defenses turned psychotic symptoms. In this section we can take a closer look at each of their assertions. Obeyesekere's book, Medusa's Hair (1981) isan elegant ethnography that examinesthe manifestation of specific symptomsand the utilization of personal and public symbols within the context ol dissociative possession. His biographical descriptions of Sinhalese women at the Kataragamacult center in Sri Lanka make it apparent that their experiencesof spirit possession arise from a matrix of trauma-induced anxiety and guilt which are themselves rooted in a combination of problematic social/lamiIial relations such as a deserting parent (usually the father), parental death, inadequate partner bonding- characterized by some degree of resistance to marriage, the vicissitudes of sexuality, marital neglect, and infidelity. The afflicted women also have thecharacteristic appearance of matted locksofhair (like dread locks) whicharisesthrough their ecstaticdissociative behaviors.Theseareofcentral concern for Obeyesekere. He describes matted hair as a si mptom, defined asua somatic manifestation of a psychic or physical malady" (1981; 37). Their genesis, the author submits, is in the women's ib Anthropology of Consciousness sublated eros, or sexual drive, linked to painful emotional experiences and in the sublimated attachment to a god and his sexual force.4 Obeyesekere says that the matted hair arises from as a symptom of unresolved unconsciousemotions that are associated with either the lossof sexual love, (from the husband), and the movementaway from the conjugal relationshiptoward an idealized union with the divine, often characterized by a intensely visceral experience oforgasmicshaking," and the belief in the deity 'sgift for the renunciation of eros (physical sex) for o^cipe (divine love). Foreach woman the locks appear at differenttimes relative to their possession episodes, but are nevertheless initially perceived by them to be anything from a mere nuisance to evidence of a malevolent presence. The significant point for Obeyesekere is that, upon taking their afflictions to Kataragama the women are able to access privileged cultural knowledge from religious adepts about their conditions and thus transform their symptoms into symbolsthat have both personal and publ ic significance.4 They are then able to make thei r unconscious feelings public through possession displays while simultaneously internalizing public religious symbolsofdivine favor in ways that has personal psychological salience. In this way, women transform themselves from afflicted and marginalized social actors into highly revered priestesses of Kataragama. Obeyesekere says that, in particular, the matted lock is reinterpreted as the lingam,or the di vinepenis, emerging from the head in accordance with religious iconography and symbolic of the god's favor, (and also of sexual union with God, an important Hindu notion not fully elaborated by Obeyesekere). He adds that: The transformation of symptom to symbol is through the cultural patterning of consciousness, which in turn helps integrate and resolvethe painful emotional experiences of the individual, converting eros into agape and patient into priest (1981:34-5). 2003 17 This transformation of symptom to symbol involves the process o f subjectification in which objectified cultural models of divine interaction are internalized and assigned personal significance based on intrapsychic experiences. Concomitantly, the initial dissociative states, which seemed to be publicly and personally understood to indicate illness by the incorporation of malevolent spiritual beings, are subsequentlytransformed during certain instances of possess ion into what Obeyesekere describes as cultural ly-sanctioned rel igiousexperiences, characterized by divine incorporation of the deity. Obeyesekere emphasizes that hisconclusions diverge from what he calls a "pathological model of culture" that is used by proponents of the traditional psychoanalytic perspective who would label these experiences as pathological. Mel Spiro is sucha proponent and indeed disagrees withObeyesekere'sconclusions. In hiscritique Spiro maintains that the women's experiences are the resultsofsevere traumas, whose pathological consequences are beyond repair" (1997: 124- 5). A Ithough he agrees that possession states can be methodsof coping w ith unconsciousconflicts and symptomsdue to past emotional traumas, he characterizes those ofthe Sinhalese women, not as transformative religious experiences, but as pathological symptoms. Spiro argues instead that culturally constituted defense mechanisms typically are employed for coping withnormal unconsciousconflicts- not by resolving them, but by rendering the associated motivations nonconflictual, even if these morally conflictual wishes trv to enter into consciousness. Therefore, the cult center of Kataragama and the priestess role (like Buddhist monasticism described earlier) are permissive venues for the women to continue enacting their unresol ved conflicts throughdcssociatire behaviors. There, the women can believe that they can incorporate the god and receive divine favor, though, according to Spiro, they are merely reproducing theirconflicts publicly. For example, kinestheticmimicryoftheterrorand aggression iS Anthropology of Consciousness ofthe goddess Kal i during possession in the kapilla ritual (Obeyesekere 1981) does not transform and overcome personal aggression. The state of personal aggression is merely reenacted for an audience. Spiro also disagrees with Obeyesekere's interpretation of the ecstatics' orgasmic encounter withdeitiesastyupeand the priestesses' interpretation of the matted locks as the actual I in gam of the deity. In his view, these are not symptoms which are sublimated and transformed into symbol; they are merely symptoms in and ofthemsel ves. More specifically, Spiro maintains that what Obeysekere deems religiousexperiences in termsof the interaction with the gods are actually psychotic hal lucinationsand delusions because they represent fundamental erosions in reality testing. Spiro's basis for pathologizing the possession experience is the Freudian notion of reality-testing which consists of'making the distinction between an object representation selfrepresentation. Therefore, an encounter with aspirit would al so have to be considered psychotic if the image of the spirit is thought to be the real thing as seen by the self. In this case, the visual or auditory encounter would be a hallucination, while the belief in possession, as stated, would be a delusion. Spiro maintains that beliefs in gods, spirits, and their interactions with humans are not a violation of the "reality principle."But an experience does become pathological when what .shouldbe symbolically represented isde-symbolized. In thisrespect, thedirect apprehension of a divine being, through possession, (uua culturally constituted defense), is fundamentally a psychotic episode because it represents a distortion of empirical veridicality as defined bv objectivism. Spiro holds that as long as an individual can interpret the elements of his or her experience as symbolic, then they remain normal culturally constituted defenses. But when they are de-symbolized as veridical experiences^. %.,the deity was in me, the hair is I ingam) then they 200i JV are pathological. In other words, theecstatic women in Obeyesekere'sethnography experience psychotic hallucinations and delusions in the dissociative state because their direct apprehension of, or communion with, the spirits are perceived as real when it Tealh isn 't. Spiro (1997) illustrates this assertion with the analogy of an American male with "narcissi stic grandiosity "who believeshe is Jesus. This"culturally constituted belief "fulfills some ofhisown psychic needs and provideshim with a profound spiritual experience. Yet, t he belief is a delusion because he is, in the end, not Jesus. The problem with this comparative example, however, isthat American culture asawhole has fairly specific culturally accepted beliefsabout who Jesuswas historically and what his spiritual nature is. N owhere, at least in the Western model of Christianity, is there room for someone to incarnate as Jesus without fu Hill ing the elaborate and temporally bound mytho-praxis surrounding his second coming as set out in the New Testament. In contrast, in certain South Asian religious modelsdo allow for incorporation of and real-time interaction with the deities in their various forms. In this respect, the possession experiencesdescribed by Obeyesekere are not pathological because they are part of a shared system of belief, behavior, and communication. It is understandable why the American male would be considered delusional- because his claims violate the normative cultural model, but the same diagnosis does not seem to fit as well in the South Asian context. Here 1 emphasize the importance of considering the particularsof cultural know ledge, or what Obeysekere describes as a social group's"myth model." Members of different cultures assess behaviors andconsciousexperience>- including onesthat are seemingly erratic and bizarre and initially hard toexplain- through van ing mythmodelsTherefore in kataragama,the behaviors associated with possession are understood to be the work ofthe incorporated entity and are not considered bizarre orabnormal as they would be in the West where there is a considerably different 40 Anthropology of Consciousness myth model. Obeysekere saysthat"Thequestion of private and idiosyncratic behaviordoes not arise (for the Sinhalese]: that isaWestern conception arisingfromthedecodinganddemythologizing ofsymbols" (1981:101). Headdsthat: A society that has no myth models must necessarily produce psychological behavior that has little cultural meaning. The Western conception of psychoticbehaviorisprecisely this: the sick person acts out his fantasies but these fantasies have no public meaning for the society at large 11987:100-1 ]. I si ightJy disagree with Obeysekere on this last point. The West does have its own myth modelsthat are in many respectsquite different from traditional South Asia.' For instance psychoanalytic and biomedical theories are also derivedfromaWestern myth model, as Hollancontends,"given the extent to whichthey are them selvesembedded within a particular historical and cultural context and make culturally bound assumptions about the mind and human nature" (2000a: 546). That said, Spiro's critique of Obeysekere and assignment of pathology to possession experience is accurate- that is, according to classical psychoanalytic theory, because it fits the parameters of the Western myth models of objectivism and empiricism in which the theory is embedded. Spiro even specifies, in the introduction to Gender Ideology, his firm rooting in the positivistapproachesofthe"WesternRationalisticTradition"andhiscriticismoftherelativistic approach. The myth model which he employs, however, isoverly rigid in that it gives little room to account for the depth of experiences that one can have with respect to beliefs in the sacred. In essence, analysis along these lines cannot go beyond what really isn't, without col lapsing back into the model of pathology. 2003 41 Cross-Cultural Variation It is widely accepted throughout many cultures that possession serves as a means of individual and community coping with existential and pragmatic social and personal stressors. As acul rural practice, possession does vary across different societiesand local idioms (Bourguignon and Evascu 1977). Many studies of possession in the have been influenced by studies of the Zar cult of Ethiopia and by Lewis (1971) who classified possession cults in terms of "central" and "peripherarposition in society. A long these lines, socia I pathologi wasemphasized inthe peripheral cults due to their members' characteristic low social status, marginality and lack of social integration while the central cults upheld the positive moral order of the society. In this formulation ecstatic practices were expected to be found in the periphery where people lacked resources for otherwise managing their emotional, physical and, material problems. This point is widely accepted as an anthropological truism and peripheral cult centers li ke Kataragama are good evidence for it. However, more recent studies of popular religion in Brazil (Brown 1994; Chesnut 2003) have shown that groups that situate spirit possession at the center of belief and practice, such as Umbanda,Kardecism, Cundomhle, and Pentecostalism, have become well populated by middle class and some upper class Brazilians especially as means for dealing with illness. However, there is little research that hasfocusedon why these so-calleducultsofaffliction"should still appeal to people with more material resources and treatment options. Despite possession being an adaptive meansof dealing with one's problems, Csordas (I987)statesthatthere has been atendency, especially in the Western paradigm of ethnopsychiatry, toover-medicalize it. Focus on pathological and therapeutic concomitants often neglects the depth to which spirit possession as it is embedded in particular spiritual systems and precludes a deeper analysis of the sacred, aesthetic, and performative dimensionsthat are given emphasis 42 Anthropology of Consciousness by the practitioners. Hesuggeststhatratherthan continually shiftingperspectives from the sacred pole to the clinical pole, a meta-discourse should be worked out that equally utilizes the "sophistication of the epidemiological method with the sensitivity of the hermeneutic met hod" (1987:9). It is also difficult to accept that such religions are sociopathic or that their members are psychopathicgiven the degreeof learning that isentailed in ritualized possession performances. Practitionersmust be initiated into the possession cult by undergoing arigorousprocessof training to assess ifthey are suitable to take on the responsibility of being spirit mediums (Csordas 1987). Often, experienced practitioners andcu It leaders associate themselveswithonedeitv according to certain personality traits that they believe they share (Bourguignon 1965). This contrasts markedly with the notions that possessed peoples passively accept the incorporation of spirits. Rather, deitiesare ini irec/ into the body within the ritual context. Thus.the possession experience is understood as div ine favor, rather than as an affliction, sim i lar to Obeyesekere'saforementioned claim. Spiritmediumsin man) possession traditionsoften playcentral roles as diagnosticians who utilize the dissociative state to embody spiritual forces and access special knowledge for healing (Greenfield 1992). This also requires ahigh level of training and initiation whereby the medium can gain considerable expertise with the state of dissociation. For example, in a case study ofBrazilianGj/u/omWe, Csordas(1987) describesam«ie-<fe-.<t/mo, or female religious leader, who could make differential diagnoses between possession trance, simulated trance, and hysterical crisis- something C*x>rdasadniits\Ve$tern academics and clinicianscan rarely do. The implication here is, as Bourguignon pointed out earlier,that often"blanketstatementsoftrance 200J 41 as'normal" prophylactic'or'pathological'hardly come to grips with the reality of the situation (1965:44). Learning of possession practice is not only achieved through ritual initiation. In her early study of Haitian Voudu Bourguignon (1965) also found that children learn the rudiments of possession behavior through mimicry and play outside of any explicit ritual or educational context. Although incidences of dissociative possession experiences are rare in children in question, in this way they are socialized through their bodies into a normative form of practice. This fact also raises important questions that deserve attention in anthropological research. Hollan (2000a) describesthe Ma 'nwroperformance conducted inToraja, Indonesia as a highly ritualized form of group possession in which participants invite the incorporation of deities through complex arrays of my tho-praxis, similar to Afro- American possession. Once possessed, many aggressive acts are performed at the behest of the deities, which to an outsider may index some form deepproblem or pathology. But someexperiencedindividualsalso specialize in certain feats and behaviors which suggests high degrees of learn ing and cu It ural coherence in the possession experience. Hollan submits that while Western diagnoses of dissociation have revolved around trauma as the causal agent, he could not find conclusive evidence that suggests thatToraja possession is necessarily rooted in trauma or severe psychological distress as conceived either locally or by the West or in ways that are similar to Obeyesekere's study. Com paring attacks on the selfthat are characteristic of Mu'maro possession with Rangdu and B<jron#trance dances of Bali that were studied by Bateson and Mead (1942), he clearly diverges from what he regards as the "old'Culture and Personality'school in anthropology, that hasbeen discredited for a long time" (2000a; 550). He iscritical of Bateson and Mead'scontention that the ritual trance is a"relativelv 44 Anthropology of Consciousness direct and unmediated projection of childhood rage"(2000a: 5 50).This isarguably a reason why less attention was given by Bateson and Mead to the socialization component. Noting Obeyesekere's assertion that existing cultural idioms can be creatively used by individuals to externalize personal meaningsandconflicts, Hollan points out that the possession-trance ritual isalso the product of a complex of historical, social, and cultural factors and that there isnot really a one-to-one relation between the trance dance and a childhood rage and traumatic etiology. Somer and Saadon (2000) describe the practice of Stambali, a Jewish-Tunisian ritual trance dance as an evil-eye prophylaxisandpromoterof well-being. The ritual itself ischaracterized by intense kinesthetic performance involving dissociated aggression and eroticism. However, in Sta mbali, trance is kinetically induced to communicate with already present possessing agents. The ritual is indeed a mechanism for emotional discharge and for coping with various stressors, but isalsoused incommunitycelebrationsandcharacterizedby practitioners as an enjoyed form ofemotional aerobics in which they dance their problemsaway"(2000:585). Stambal iseemsto offer itsown brand of recreational psychotherapy for overcoming psychological conflicts and anx ieties through dissociation. One informant is quoted as saying: I don't believe in psychologists... when I am in stressandcan't organize a Stambali event right away, I prefer to put on a v ideocassette of one of the last dances I participated in and Ido my own Stam/xi/i (2000:5911 Theauthorsalso ment ion that while the communitiesof Jewish-Tunisians which they studied naturally have a range ofconflicts and psychological problems, those who practice Stambali do not seem to haveany dissociative symptomsoutside of the culturally prescribed ritual dance. These few exam pies suggest that there may be some difficulty in extending a uniform model ofpsychopathology of possession acrossdifferent societies. In many cases, possession serves as a therapeutic and/or prophylactic modality for coping with personal distress in socially 200} 44 sanctioned ways. Spiro does agree with this point and with Obeyesekere regarding the Sinhalese women. However, possession often involves certain experiences that conflict with the premises of hisobjectivist position. He states that: these possessions and visions are episodic psychotic symptoms, not because religious sy mbols are regressive or because they reflect the archaic motivationsof childhood but because... the priestess have undergone severe traumas whose pathological consequences are beyond repair, except perhaps by means of prolonged psychiatric intervention |I997:I24-5| This view, however, overlooks Obeyesekere's point that the personal transformations of the women he studied at Kataragama are the analogues of transformations that would be the goal of psychiatric intervention. As the previous cross-cultural examples demonstrate, spirit possession is often the most salient form of culturally patterned psychotherapy for different societies; a spiritual psychotherapy that does not rely on the models and methods of Western psychotherapy and psychiatry. Additionally, possession practice dependson adeep socialization of bodily performance beingthatiselaborated through dissociative experience. Obeyesekere (1981) explainsthat the behaviors and bel iefs that constitute dissociative experience in these societiesare complex and meaningful modesof knowledge and act ion which, in the experiences of the participants, put them more closely in touch with their own cultural reality than ordinary members of societies. For the ecstatic who becomes a priestess, her experience, Obeyesekere states, "is a real one for her and her society, with one difference. The belief in gods, a cultural value for most members of the society, is translated into amore dynamic interaction and experience with them" (1984:88, emphasis added). Using the psychoanalytic parlance it might be concluded that the intensity and "reality" perceived by the individual is dependent on the degree to which he or she cathect vthe religioussymbols that are accessible, that is,thedegreeofemotionarenergy"or"resonance"that is investedin the symbol which isultimately Anthropology oj Consciousness tied to bodily experience. Rather than labeling these as necessarily psychotic pathological symptoms, they are concomitant somato-sensory domains of high degrees of cathect. The associated psychological experiences manifest as visions and feelings of incorporation that can involve further somatic stimulation corresponding to intenseorgasmsandelaborateeven gestural displaysthat have spiritual significance.Thus.suchexperiencesthat are construed by some, like Spiro, as psychotic fantasies, are certainly not for those who live them as part of theircultural and individual realties. Rethinking Possession as Embodied Experience Obeyesekere's position servesasan important correctiveto Spiro'spathologizing view of possession by validating local contexts of meaningful knowledge and action. It reflects an approach that has been, in Charles Lindholm'swords,"especially characteristic of interpretive anthropologists who wish to avoid imposing preconceived Western notionsof rationality on what Clifford Geertzcalls'local knowledge'"( 1992:287). In itscurrent postmodern manifestation as "contestation," interpretivism continues to have considerable purchase in anthropology. Nevertheless asa means for engaging important questions about the nature ofexperience in spirit possession I feel that it isalso limited. 1 will address this below and discussa more useful alternative position, embodiment, which has been articulated more recently in anthropology and cognitive science (Csordas 1988, 1994, Lock l99*,Lakoff 1987;Lakoffand Johnson 1980,1999,Varela, etal. 1991). The Spiro/Obeyesokere debate is rooted in the traditional philosophical tension between empirical realists and Kantian idealists and their respective notions of mental representations that stand between the world and our means of perceiving the world. On the 2003 47 one hand a realist thinks that there is a natural distinction between our mental representations and that which they signify, the world "out there." The standard for judging the validity of representationsisthe independent world itself. Ourrepresentationsmustexhibitahigh measure of correspondence or degree o f fit with the formal features of the external world, and thus our mindsarettmirrorsofthe world" (Varela.Thompson,and Rosch 1991). Furthermore, representations arettnot real"because tJiey are o f the m ind. O n the other hand, the idealist argues that we cannot access such an independent world except through our representations, nor can we position ourselves outside the world to judge the degree of fit of our representations. Degree of fit must be marshaled through consensus ofrepresentat ions. Even our sense ofan objective external w orld isconsideredtobeakindofmeta-representation.Whatisttreallyreal"isonly what is in the m ind. Cultural interpretivism discards preconceptions of an outer ground with which to examine cultural experienced favorof an inner groundof subjectivecontingencies, (to the extent that they these contingencies also constitute mental representations6), supposing that they will bestable reference points. Generally this has been a successful approach for examining cultural variability. However,explaining "normaTmodesofconsciousnessormodesof madness,sanity, and ecstasy which accompany exceptional phenomenalike dissociation possession, transpersonal states, and psychopathology, as merely matters of cultural construction or local iterations of meaning, seems exceedingly inadequate.The nature o f a vision or a moment of incorporating a spirit is obviously much more than an interpretive approach can account for, for these are dimensions that involves the construction of A fell reality that is rooted not just in cultural texuality but in processes ofthe mind/body from which embodied experience itsell inlusescultural form. Embodiment moves beyond cultural experience as abstracted text to"bein5-in-theworld"(Csordas!988)in which culture itselfemerges from thegroundol bodily processes, bodilv 4X Anthropology-of Consciousness orientation and bodily action. The significance here is, as Byron Good states, is that "we act in the world through our bodies; our bodies are the subject of our actions, that through which we experience, comprehend and act upon the world" ( 1992:39). Our sense and understanding of what isreal to us depends critically upon ourbodies, especially our sen so rimotor apparatus which has been shaped by both evolution and experience (Piaget 1954; Lakoff and Johnson 1999). Embodimenttheoristsincognitivescience,(Lakoff and Johnson 1980,1999;Varelaetal. 1991; Nunez 1999), have been among the most vocal critics ofthettmind as mirror" approach and the groundlessnessof interpretivism.They maintain that our mental categoriesfor coding the world and modesofreasoning areembodiedandtherefore emerge from the coordination ofbodily based experiences and environmental interaction. They also argue that most concepts are formed through cognitive metaphorical projects of sensori motor source domainsto simple abstract, (to see = to understand) and highly abstract conceptual domains (mathematics). A well-studied example of embodiment is the case of color perception (Lakoff and Johnson 1999). There has long been the assumption in phi losophical and folk reasoning that color isafeatureoftheexternal world,found intrees.the sky, the Sistine Chapel and so on (objectivism). There isal so the argumentthat colorperception, while certainly requiring properly functioning brains, (the notion of trivial embodiment, (Nunez 1999)), isfundamentally amatter ofcultural construction of color categories (interpretivism). A view from embodiment says that color asa basic perceptual category arises from the interaction ofbrain and body mechanismsand properties ol reflectance and electromagnetic radiation in the environment and the extension of this process in varying cultural environments. Thus, contrary to the objectivist view, color categories are experiential; and contrary to interpretivism, color categoriesrequireashared world of biologv 2 001 +v andculture. Importantly, this form ofinteractionism in not merely objective or subjective realismit isembodied realism. Another experiential category is chronicpain. Chronic pain is troublesome not only because it is one of the most debilitating and widespread human conditions, but also because it typically presents without any identifiable organismic pathologies. In her article on the embodiment of chronic pain Jackson (1994) describes patients and clinicians often struggling between locating a source for the pain and the possibility that the pain is just a figment of the imagination. In this struggle, patients often objectify pain as "out there," a foreign object with agency that istormenting the body. They also may shift toward subjectifying it as something only "as a figment of one's imagination" that can be overcome with enough will or as part of oneself as attpainful-me." But she states that pain of this nature "confounds a simple subject-object dichotomy"( 1994:203) and isttnot a simply a matter of establishing equations 'object' = 'outthere-and-real,'and'subject'='not real',"because experientially the pain remains very real for thesufFerers. It also follows that pain cannot bestrictly biological because it isalwaysa subjectively meaningful experience. Therefore, pain is not merely a physical sensation to which meaning is assigned, but an experiential ground that creates meaning in a culturally salient way. These examples bring much to bear on the consideration of the dissociative experience underlying spirit possession as embodied experience. From the embodiment perspective, the question is not about spirits as objectsttout there"or as"figments of the imagination"but about meaningful bodily orientation to the world that makesthe world itselfreal. Aspointedout earlier, bodily orientations can be deeply socialized (Bourdieu 1977;Csordas 199 i) such that particular socio-cultural world is i nfused not just in mental representation but in bodily processes. In this respect,be ingttriddenby aspirit"duringpossession isameansofbeing-in-the-world. Onthe other 50 Anthropologi of Consciousness I ' * •( ' ) I handdissociative possession isaprivate realm ofsensation, emotion, movement, and experience but it also relies on social action, especially through ritual or distressed states to create a dimension of existence. How can achild, for instance, continue to be convinced of her mother's love if not forthe sensory-perceptual-affective conditionsof attachment that were patterned during infancy and continually enacted their relational world? Likewise, how does a religious supplicant ascertain the beneficence of his deity if not through the sensorial and affective states that are modulated during acts of prayer, meditation, dancing, and trancing to the extent that the spirit is felt flowing through the body? The categories that define sacred reality andeven the limits normalcy are themselves being continually re-created through the immediacy and urgency of embodied experience. Because differentsocietiesprivilegedissociative modal itiesofconsciousness, (including mediation, dreams, visions, soul-flight, and charismata), they are ableto conceptualize andengagethe world through a broader range of psychosomatic and transpersonal experiences that are available only through dissociative states. The societies, which deemphasize non-ordinary modalities of consciousness as valued way s of being in the world, have limited the means through which the world can be experienced and conceptualized. Thus, normalcy has become a narrower path to tread and pathology a more convenient label for divergences from that path. Dissociation and the Indeterminate Self I have attempted to show, in part, how embodiment requires the collapse of the objective-subjective dichotomy to envision how understanding and acting in the world depends on an experiential ground. The same logic can also be applied to the domain of self, o ne of the most fundamental categories of experience with respect to dissociative possession. I will first 2003 51 mention several views of self and then how embodiment provides a different view of an "indeterminate selPas an experiential ground. Spirit possession is typically characterized by fragmentation in the self and the conviction that one has beentttaken over"by a spiritual entity. Obeyesekere (1981) arguesthat these momentsare often viewed as profound religiousexperiences. Spiro (1997) hasdescribed these moments as psychotic episodes because they are constituted by fusions of objectrepresentations and self-representations. In psychoanalytic theory this fusion is considered an extremely regressive movement because it is characteristic of infantile cognition prior to the development of self-object differentiation and a stabilized self awareness. I agree in theory that this is a regressive moment, but not that they are necessarily psychotic episodes. The conflation of selfand object does feature in clinical psychosis and my point is not to overlook the cases in which hallucinations or delusions are also accompanied by tremendous suffering on the part of the individual. In fact, the relationship of psychosis and spiritual experience is still very poorly understood, but recently some attention hasbeen given to reconceptualizingtherelationshipasmoreofacontinuumratherthan being isomorphic(Clarke 2001). Rather, it is myopic on the part of those who think that the fusion of subject and object is, in and o f itself, definable as pathological. The ascetic practices in many Eastern meditative traditions, for instance, are oriented around the dissolution of self-object distinction. Epstein (199 5) describes that the intended goal of intensive levelsof meditative training in Zen Buddhism is to arrive at a state of the tt no-self"in which the boundaries between the physical self and the previously compartmentalized, objective world dissolve into unity. Adept practitioners report this as merging into an "ocean o f bliss." In Zen and other Eastern philosophies, the ontological status ofthe self is illusory and the attempt tograsp at the self is the source of suffering (Yarcla, 52 Anthropology of Consciousness Thornpson,and Rosch 1991). And, as I have shown earlier in thispaper, different societies value the ability to disengage from the everyday selfbyritually dissociatingandttembodying"spirits. Since Western models of the rational mind are grounded in an assumed and valued continuity of an integrated and bounded self, it is clear why this return to fragmentations in identity or fusions in self-object representation would be considered a regressive pathology when it isnot constructed within the context of a therapeutic intervention. In the classic article "The Self and its Behavioral Environment" HallowelI (1955) providesan interpretive challenge to this problem. He saysthat the ontogenetic process of selfobject differentiation is ahuman universal, and indeeda necessity for functioning beyond infantile levels o f development. But he adds that, inasmuch as we tend t o consider a one-to-one correspondence with absolute objectivity outside of the self, (objectivism): the self is cultural product [therefore) the field of behavior that is appropriate for the activitiesofparticular selvesintheirworldofculturally defined objectsisnot by any means precisely coordinated with any absolute polarity of subjectivity-objectivity that is definable (195 5.8 5). Hal lowel I g oes on to state that the fai lure to account for this fact has led to erroneous portrayalsofprimitivesas unable to make subject-object distinctions. Acrosscultures, humans respond t o their objects in their behavioral environment that in the mind are symbolically constituted as, for instance, spiritsand demons. Some featuresofthe cognized environment can also be de-symbolized through experience, like possession. Clearly conceptualized and reified as sacred, they are perceived and responded to in meaningful waysthat blur the distinction from the natural profane environment. Hallowell says that the Western empirical approaches have focused on making sharp distinctions between the two, while assuming that this assessment of "objectivity" is equally perceptible t o members of other behavioral environments that are 2 003 Si structured differently when, in fact, those properties are much less salient forthem. The problem becomes where to draw the line between objectivity and subjectivity when citing data from different behavioral environments, because they differ. Hallowell argues that a priori distinctions about where this linecan be drawn should not be made withoutfirstconsidering the meaningful characteristicsofagiven behavioral environment. The claim that objects can become de-symbolized in waysthat blur the distinction of selfand object is also supported in naturalized theoriesof the self. Damasio( 1999) for instance shows that the self is not a neurobiologically unitary entity or module in the brain but is an assemblageofcomplex orientational systemssuchas sensation,perception, memory.and affect to form layers of self-representations and metarepresentations that can be modulated by both endogenous and exogenous factors. Hollan (2000b) also suggests that psychoanalytic theories of consciousness and self can be updated by taking into account such findings in cognitive neurosciences. Histtconstructivistmodelofmind"drawsfromcognitivetheoryofthe unconscious in which cognition largely occurs out of awareness and is the result of complex unconscious processes. Hollan's analogy is that consciousness is less like a beach ball resistingsubmersion in the ocean, (as in the Freudian view of repression), and more likegrabbing a rock from the bottom and bringing it to the surface. The implication is that the self is organized in a hierarchical and dynamicfashion that allows for norm alfragmentationsinselfsystems.The self isthus not aunitarv or superordinate dimension in the Freudian sense, in which splits are indicative of underlying pathologies. Reminiscent of Hilgard'sneo-dissociation theory, low-level processcscan remain separate from other systems that contribute to the selfand they may function quite independently of one another. In this way the fusion of representations can occur within the moments of dissociation when a sense of bounded self is disengaged. 54 Anthropology of Consciousness | IM 2) | An advantage ofthe constructivist model with respect todissociative possession is that it portrays splits and fragmentations in human consciousnessand self awareness not necessarily as psychopathology, but as the inherent organization ofthe mind.Thus.dissociative phenomena, such as possession, may constitute adaptive psychological potentials as wel I as social potentials in that possession allows for the expression of hidden or marginalized community or personal knowledge. An example wouldbeseveretrauma. Research hasshownthattraumaticexperiences can sometimes be so severe that they are not able t o be cognitively represented at all, almost like attblow t o the head, effectively interrupting the normal process by which experience comes to be cognized, remembered, and integrated into self-organization" (Hollan 2000b: 540). The process of dissociation and disengagi ng from the sel f wou Id al low behav ioral and affective contents corresponding to the trauma to surface which would otherwise be detrimental if continually recalledduring normal conscious awareness. These perspectives together demonstrate an important interaction of biology and culture.That is, rather than the fusion o f self-object representations being necessarily pathological breakdowns in reality testing, they seem t o stem from the"normararchitectureand organization ofthe brain that allowsfor dissociation. Human groupshave learned use thiscapacityasacognitive and cultural resource and as a specific mode ol being-in-the-world. The limitation in this interactionist view, however, is that no space is made for the experiential dimension of subject-object fusion. It is in this dimension during possession that people encounter an alterity, but an alterity which isembodied and merged withthe self. Csordas (1988; 199 i ) , draw ing on the phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty, conceptualizes this embodied moment as an"indeterminacy"of self, a synthetic-mode ol experience that underlies subject and object distinctions. This again i* the sense of being-in-the-world where objects are not prior to 2 003 55 experience, they are the result. He uses Merleau-Ponty's notion of the t t pre-objective"as the ground from which t t to capture that moment of transcendence in which perception begins, and in the midst of its arbitrariness, constitutes and is constituted by culture"(1988:9). Jackson's (1994) example o f chronic pain described earlier points to the notion o f indeterminacy where pain isinitially neither subject nor object but an e xperiential ground from which to shift between conceptualizationsofpain-as-agent or p ain-as-self. Likewise, inpossession.themomentsoftrembling, teetering and w r i t h i n g - o f being "ridden by the spirit"and feeling its power surging through the body- are sensate, phenomenal moments initially uninformed by thoughts and and meaning; but nevertheless immersed in a culture world in which meaningiseventually g iven. In the dimension of m eaning, p eople typically invest in subject-object dualisms in which the experiences can be represented as s elf process or as d ivine presence. But the em bodied moment is prior t o categorization. It is the space where selfandobjectareindistinguishablebecausethey arise from the same p rimordial s tuff. I nthissense, the experience of alterity is a r eflection of self. C sordas (199 i ) says that the experience of the sacred arises from modifications in orientational (self) process, such as i magination, memory, language, and affect that become characterized by spontaneity, autonomy, and a seeming independence from context. W i t h the absence of consciousattention.duringdissociation, they are experienced as a g round o f Other ness that has appeared tt out of the blue" from some other source. Thus, among those groups in which possession is a v alued way of engaging the w o r l d , it is t his sense o f Otherness acti ng w i t h i n the self that is understood to be the merging of self w i t h objects, of the self w i t h the possessing spirit. The embodi ment v i ew, as e laborated by Csordas, chal lenges the position that sel f a nd objects are necessarily separate and that any conflation of them signifies pathology. Embodiment 56 Anthropology^ of Consciousness rather, presupposes any distinctionsbetween the self and object in the immediacy of experience. The experiential ground isthe domain where both are united. It is also the primordial space that is returned to during dissociation in which the self is not experienced as discrete from other but as infused with otherness, where self and spirit reflect one another. Conclusion I have been arguing that analytical modi ficationsare warranted for exploring the salient cultural and experiential dimensions of dissociative spirit possession. Although aholistic model of dissociation has been elusive, I suggest that an increased sensitivity to cultural contexts and the particulars of meaningful embodied experiences without capitulating to the premises of extreme interpretivismisimportantforproceedingtoward such a model. Additionally, increased experience-nearattention to the diversity ofwaysthat the self-object environment isconstructed and manipulated through dissociative phenomena allows for a viewthatconsidersour incredibly diverse engagements with the world around us. In arguing for a model that conceptualizes the dissociative phenomena in a more normative light, I must acknowledge the risk of seeming too willing to assume that the human mind can be infinitely fragmented in ways that obstruct integration at high levels. Rather, as Hallowell (195 S)pointsout, the self-system requires the integration andsomesenseof continuity in self-experience if it is to function in the larger social arena. In this respect, the kinds of splits in self and collapses in symbolic representation that are characteristic of possession cannot go unabated without becoming pathological at a certain point.Yet I have tried to show that the boundaries that delimit what is and what is not pathology are constructed through embodied engagement with particular cultural worlds. Hopefully, on-going research and analysis of the 2 003 5" neurobiological and experiential co rrelatesof dissociation willrevealaclearer picture ofthe limits of its normality and how to better conceptualize the differences and similarities of religious and pathological experience. In the meantime, I feel that it is worth working toward models ofthe mind/body that seriously consider the adaptive, fragmentary architecture of the self and consciousness underlying the stable self-system. The maintenance ofthe self, in this light, does not fundamentally reqoireaconsistentttsuperordinate"structure, nor is it restricted by breakdowns in the self-object orientation and symbolic representation that are com mon i n dissociative states and somedomainsofembodiedexperience.Ratherthanconceivingofapathologicalselfthat arises from these conditions, the self must be understood as a structure that emerges from aconcert of these normative and adaptive systems which are part ofthe psychic unity of mankind. Notes 1. For an excellent review of the "debate" see: Shore (19%). 2. DSM-1V-TR characterizes dissociative trance disorder a>: -ingle or episodic disturbances in the state of consciousness, identity, or memory that are indigenous to particular locations and culture*. Dissociative trance involves narrowing of awareness of immediate surroundings or stereotyped behaviors or movements that are experienced i s being beyond one's control. Possession trance involves the replacement of the customary sense of personal identity by a new identity, attributed to the influence of a spirit, power, deity, or other person, and associated with stereotyped "involuntary" movements of amne.-ia and is perhaps the most common Dissociative Disorder in Asia.. .The dissociative or trance disorder is not a normal part of a broadly accepted collective cultural or religious practice (DSM-1V-TR, 2000:532-533). 3. 1 assume that this causal relationship postulated by Obeysekere would be acceptable to most psychoanalytic theorists. However, we assume a causal relationship between psychic experience and somatic phenotype, this construction overlooks any further questioning of the mind-body relationship in general, and why specifically psychic trauma ofthe specified nature would precipitate the specific somatic outcome. 4. 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