Knot of the Soul
Madness, Psychoanalysis, Islam
In this unsettling and innovative book, anthropologist Stefania Pandolfo addresses the problematic of the subject through a dual examination of psychoanalysis and Islamic theological-medical reasoning, reflecting on the unconscious maladies of the soul at a time of tremendous global upheaval. Drawing on in-depth historical research and sensitively listening to contemporary patients in Morocco, she offers both an ethnographic journey through madness and contemporary formations of despair and a philosophical and theological exploration of the vicissitudes of the soul. Pandolfo's study spans a breadth that encompasses experiences of psychosis in psychiatric hospitals, visionary torments of the soul in urban life, the difficulty of undocumented migration, and the liturgical space of Quranic healing. Demonstrating how contemporary Islamic cures for madness address some of the core preoccupations of the psychoanalytic approach, she reveals how a religious and ethical relation to the "ordeal" of madness might actually allow for spiritual transformation. Altogether, this sophisticated work illuminates new dimensions of psychoanalysis and the ethical imagination while also sensitively examining the collective psychic strife that so many communities endure today.
Stefania Pandolfo is professor and director of the UC Berkeley Medical Anthropology Program on Critical Studies in Medicine, Science, and the Body at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of "Impasse of the Angels".