Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 87-105

First online:

Painful Memories: Ritual and the Transformation of Community Trauma

  • Jennifer ColeAffiliated withThe Committee on Human Development, University of Chicago

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This paper explores the question of how ritual can heal community pain or trauma. Drawing together recent insights into the ideological nature of healing with a focus on ritual process, I argue that in cases of social violence and healing, ritual's ability to assuage pain is linked to the ways in which it draws pain into the process of reconstructing memory. The argument is illustrated through an examination of how the Betsimisaraka of east Madagascar used rituals of cattle sacrifice to transform the pain they experienced during an anticolonial rebellion that took place in 1947.

Madagascar memory pain ritual