La possession en Inde, Séminaire Anthropologie et Psychologie, 4 février 2013, EHESS

La prochaine séance du séminaire ‘Anthropologie et Psychologie’ coordonnée par M-C. Saglio-Yatzimirsky et P. Haag (lundi 4 février 2013 9h-13h, EHESS, 105 bd Raspail, Salle 8) est consacrée à la possession en Inde et à l’articulation entre la psychiatrie, les soins traditionnels et les pratiques religieuses. Trois anthropologues, Helen Basu (Université de Munster), Brigitte Sébastia (IFP, CEIAS), Serena Bindi (Université paris V)  présenteront leurs travaux et deux documentaires sur le sujet. Thierry Baubet (Psychiatre, hôpital Avicenne, Université Paris 13)  introduira le débat.

Helen Basu – Possession and Psychiatry in the realm of Saints

Documentary-  Drugs and Prayers – Indian Psychiatry in the realm of Saints  (H. Basu, 2009)

The Sufi shrine of Mira Datar in India is a large pilgrimage centre specialized in possession healing. Recently, psychiatrists have offered psychiatric services in the shrine parallel to the traditional cures of possession illnesses carried out by ritual specialists.

Brigitte Sébastia: The role of therapeutic cults in the mental health universe in India

At the outset of my study of the sanctuary of Puliyampatti is the dramatic death of Ervadi where 28 chained patients died. Psychiatrists reacted by emphasizing the failures of their discipline to treat properly mental ill patients. In order to make psychiatry more attractive to ‘Indian culture’, they focussed on the emergency to increase psychiatric infrastructure and to train medical professionals to be more empathic with the patients. Even though mental ill patients’ families pointed out frequently the high cost of medication and hospitalisation, those critics were hardly taken into account. The importance of social suffering as part of the illness was also ignored. Therefore I will focus on the issue of the role played by religious places, left vacant by the psychiatry.

-Documentary The dance of saint Antony : devotion, affliction and possession at Puliyampatti (B.  & C. Sebastia,  2004)

The catholic shrine of Puliyampatti, situated in South India, welcomes a large community of pilgrims, and of people affected by serious psychiatric disorders or mental disturbances caused by successive traumatic events or violent family context. The infrastructure of the shrine and the high frequentation of pilgrims allow patients and their family to benefit from cheap accommodation and free food so that their stay varies between few days to several months, even years.  The documentary examines the involvement of family members in the healing process. It goes through the therapeutic system of the shrine, which is composed of three parts reminding of the biomedical domain: emergency, diagnostic centre, treatment centre. It suggests that the expression of possession is not a spontaneous phenomenon as defined by many anthropologists, but is induced by family members in order to give sense to the behaviour of the ill person. Depending on the nature of the disorder (psychosis or trauma), patients may comply with the wish of their family. Consequently, the film shows series of possession sessions that can increase in frequency and violence.

-Serena Bindi , Between suffering and being healed. Some reflexions on the experience of possession in Uttarakhand