Accusations of Genital Theft: A Case from Northern Ghana
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Occurrences of panic attacks associated with belief in genital retraction have been described in the anthropological and psychological literature in terms of culture bound reactive syndromes. Similar phenomena occur widely in West Africa, where they are reported as cases of penis snatching. Explanations for these phenomena range from the biomedical emphasis on pathology to the social psychological emphasis on altered perceptual sets. This paper provides a narrative of an accusation of genital theft in a rural West African settlement. Drawing from ethnographic information, it will be argued that the case is best explained in light of social relations, definitions for in-groups and out-groups, and local knowledge concerning witchcraft and divination. Local explanations for the case conform to both biomedical and social psychological models.
Keywordsculture-bound syndrome genital retraction syndrome koro Kusasi West Africa
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