Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry

, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 209–231 | Cite as

LATAH: The symbolism of a putative mental disorder

  • Michael G. Kenny


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.


Mental Disorder 19th Century Symbolic Representation Behavioral State Cultural Pattern 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1978

Authors and Affiliations

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

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