Dissociative Experience and Cultural Neuroscience:Narrative, Metaphor and Mechanism
Laurence J. Kirmayer
Published online: 23 January 2008
Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008
Approaches to trance and possession in anthropology have tended to useoutmoded models drawn from psychodynamic theory or treated such dissociativephenomena as purely discursive processes of attributing action and experience toagencies other than the self. Within psychology and psychiatry, understanding of dissociative disorders has been hindered by polemical ‘‘either/or’’ arguments: eitherdissociative disorders are real, spontaneous alterations in brain states that reﬂectbasic neurobiological phenomena, or they are imaginary, socially constructed roleperformances dictated by interpersonal expectations, power dynamics and culturalscripts. In this paper, we outline an approach to dissociative phenomena, includingtrance, possession and spiritual and healing practices, that integrates the neuro-psychological notions of underlying mechanism with sociocultural processes of thenarrative construction and social presentation of the self. This integrative model,grounded in a cultural neuroscience, can advance ethnographic studies of dissoci-ation and inform clinical approaches to dissociation through careful consideration of the impact of social context.
R. Seligman (
)Department of Anthropology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USAe-mail: email@example.comL. J. KirmayerDivision of Social & Transcultural Psychiatry, Culture & Mental Health Research Unit, JewishGeneral Hospital, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
Cult Med Psychiatry (2008) 32:31–64DOI 10.1007/s11013-007-9077-8