Magic, morality and medicine: madness and medical pluralism in Java
Javanese language and culture privilege the notions of order and disorder, act to preserve hierarchy and promote social harmony. Mental and physical illness are often diagnosed as the result of disturbances to order, insult to propriety, and may be a result of pressure on the individual to preserve social harmony. Vulnerable individuals may be subject to spirit attack and possession or black magic that manifests physical or mental illness. Mystical practices can help individuals hone personal power and can help them withstand the stress of modern life, but can also be dangerous if misused. Three different types of curers treat mental illness in Java: dukun (paranormal practioners); kyai (Islamic religious healers); and psychiatrists (trained in the Western biomedical paradigm). In a chapter on each, the cultural context, qualifications to practice, perceived position in society, and the clinical encounter are discussed. The paths of resort of those seeking a cure for mental illness in Java depends on their religious beliefs and the presumed cause of the illness---the kind of social, personal or medical intervention they deem necessary to return the ill to an orderly state of harmonious balance. Some individuals are left untreated; the stigma of mental illness causes their families to lock them up lest they bring shame on their family or act as the agents of violent disorder that the mad in Java are presumed to be.
- Anthropology