Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 25–50 | Cite as

Illness from fright or soul loss: A North Balinese culture-bound syndrome?

  • Unni Wikan


The paper examines kesambet, a common cause of child mortality and adult sickness in North Bali, by placing it in the context of cultural conceptions of body, person and spirit, as well as interpersonal praxis. Emotions, virtue, and the covert intentions of others are salient preoccupations in the construction of kesambet. The analysis thus serves to question Geertz's classical account of Balinese personhood, which interprets the Balinese concern with grace and composure as aesthetically motivated. Kesambet is also analysed in comparative perspective, especially in relation to susto; and Good and Good's distinction between etiological and descriptive criteria is utilized.


Child Mortality Comparative Perspective Classical Account Cultural Conception Descriptive Criterion 
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

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

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  • Unni Wikan

There are no affiliations available

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