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Cult Med Psychiatry. 1994 Mar;18(1):1-21.

Spirit possession in South Asia, dissociation or hysteria? Part 1: Theoretical background.

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  • 1University of Hawaii at West Oahu, Pearl City 96782.


Psychoanalytic theory appears flawed in its notions of universal oedipal conflict and repression, and unsuitable for the study of pathological spirit possession in South Asia. The biological theory of contemporary psychiatry is no more effective in this analysis because mental illnesses are constituted within culture-bound categories of experience. Dissociation theory offers a better theoretical tool for this type of research. A summary of the history of paradigm shifts in psychiatric theory relevant to spirit possession is presented.

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