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Hearing voices in Accra and Chennai: How the culture makes a difference to psychiatric experience

Tanya Luhrmann, PhD, Howard and Jessie Watkins Uni­ver­sity Pro­fes­sor of Anthropology, Professor, Psy­chol­ogy (by courtesy), Department of Anthropology, Stanford Uni­ver­sity   Web­site  |  Pub­li­ca­tions  |  Abstract & Bio  |  @tanyaluhrmann

Abstract: The stan­dard view in psy­chi­atric sci­ence is that the dis­tress­ing voices of schiz­o­phre­nia are the seque­lae of the dis­ease. This paper presents evi­dence that the symp­toms may vary in dif­fer­ent cul­tural con­texts, and sug­gests that dif­fer­ent local the­o­ries of mind may explain these dif­fer­ences. Cul­tural vari­a­tion can be shown to affect phe­nom­ena that many might treat as culture-free.

Bio: Tanya Marie Luhrmann is the Watkins Uni­ver­sity Pro­fes­sor in the Stan­ford Anthro­pol­ogy Depart­ment. Her books include Per­sua­sions of the Witch’s Craft (Har­vard, 1989); The Good Parsi (Har­vard 1996); Of Two Minds (Knopf, 2000), and When God Talks Back (Knopf, 2012). In gen­eral, her work focuses on the way that ideas about the mind affect men­tal expe­ri­ence. In recent years, she has worked on the way healthy peo­ple hear God’s voice, and the way that peo­ple with psy­chosis hear dis­tress­ing voices – the pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive sides of the inner voice experience.