Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 286–305 | Cite as

Behind the Statistics: The Ethnography of Suicide in Palestine

  • Nadia DabbaghEmail author
Original Paper


As part of the first anthropological study on suicide in the modern Arab world, statistics gathered from the Ramallah region of the West Bank in Palestine painted an apparently remarkably similar picture to that found in Western countries such as the UK and France. More men than women completed suicide, more women than men attempted suicide. Men used more violent methods such as hanging and women softer methods such as medication overdose. Completed suicide was higher in the older age range, attempted suicide in the younger. However, ethnographic fieldwork and detailed examination of the case studies and suicide narratives gathered and analysed within the cultural, political and economic contexts illustrated more starkly the differences in suicidal practices between Palestinian West Bank society of the 1990s and other regions of the world. The central argument of the paper is that although statistics tell a very important story, ethnography uncovers a multitude of stories ‘behind the statistics’, and thus helps us to make sense of both cultural context and subjective experience.


Suicide Palestine Ethnography Statistics 


  1. Aggarwal N. 2009. Rethinking Suicide Bombing. CRISIS 30, 94-7. New Haven: Yale University.Google Scholar
  2. Ali, A. 1997. The Meaning of the Holy Quran (English and Arabic). Maryland: Amana Publications.Google Scholar
  3. Baker, A. 1990. The psychological impact of the intifada on Palestinian children in the occupied west Bank and Gaza. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 60, 496-505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barber, B. 1997. Palestinian children and adolescents during and after the Intifada. Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics and Culture 4, 23-33.Google Scholar
  5. Canetto, S. & D. Lester 1998. Gender, culture and suicidal behaviour. Transcultural Psychiatry 35, 163-190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cohen, S. 1973. Folk Devils and Moral Panics. London: St Albans.Google Scholar
  7. Dabbagh N. 2004. Narrative Expressions of Despair under Occupation. Anthropology and Medicine 11, 201-220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dabbagh, N. 2005. Suicide in Palestine: Narratives of despair. London: Hurst Publishers.Google Scholar
  9. Hammer, J. 2005. Palestinians Born in Exile: Diaspora and the Search for a Homeland. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  10. Hill, K. 1995. The Long Sleep: Young People and Suicide. London: Virago Press.Google Scholar
  11. Kral, M. 1998. Suicide and internalization of culture: three questions. Transcultural Psychiatry 35, 221-233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Lockman, Z. & J. Beinin 1989. Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising Against Israeli Occupation. Boston: MERIP Book, South End Press.Google Scholar
  13. Pappe, I. 2004. A History of Modern Palestine. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Pappe, I. 2006. The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. London and New York: One World.Google Scholar
  15. PASSIA (The Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs) 2009. The PASSIA Directory. Jerusalem: PSSIA.Google Scholar
  16. Pelto, P, and G. Pelto 1996 [1978] Anthropological Research: The Structure of Inquiry. 2nd Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Said, E. 1989. Intifada and independence. In: Lockman, Z. & J. Beinin (Eds) Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising Against Israeli Occupation. Boston: MERIP Book, South End Press.Google Scholar
  18. Tapper, N. 1991. Bartered Brides: Politics, Gender and Marriage in an Afghan Tribal Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees 1998. Newsletter no 29, Ramallah.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dubai Health AuthorityDubaiUAE

Personalised recommendations