Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry

, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 209–231

LATAH: The symbolism of a putative mental disorder

  • Michael G. Kenny

DOI: 10.1007/BF00051005

Cite this article as:
Kenny, M.G. Cult Med Psych (1978) 2: 209. doi:10.1007/BF00051005


This paper examines the symbolic properties and cultural relevance of latah, a behavioral state noted in Malaya and Indonesia since the 19th Century. Most interpretations of latah have been psychological, latah being perceived as a ‘mental disorder.’ In the following, it is concluded that latat is intimately related to other aspects of Malayo-Indonesian culture and that it is a well-known cultural pattern and not a mental disorder as such, though it may occur among persons, largely women, in a socially and psychologically marginal situation. Latah is a symbolic representation of marginality, and it is as appropriate to certain mythological and religious figures as to the socially marginal.

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael G. Kenny
    • 1
  1. 1.Simon Fraser UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations