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LATAH: The symbolism of a putative mental disorder

Abstract

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.

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Kenny, M.G. LATAH: The symbolism of a putative mental disorder. Cult Med Psych 2, 209–231 (1978). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00051005

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00051005

Keywords

  • Mental Disorder
  • 19th Century
  • Symbolic Representation
  • Behavioral State
  • Cultural Pattern