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Paradox Lost: The Latah Problem Revisited

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Part of the Culture, Illness, and Healing book series (CIHE,volume 7)

Abstract

R. C. Simons recently examined in this Journal (1980) the Malay—Indonesian condition known as latah in the hope of resolving a question posed by the anthropologist, Hildred Geertz (1968). The latah pattern is typified by susceptibility to sudden fright and is commonly described as a “startle reaction”; startle in turn leads to temporary dissociation accompanied by compulsive obscenity and/or mimesis. Throughout the area sudden fright or loss of poise are believed to render one open to the intrusion of erratic forces and hence, although there are degrees in this, latah is held to be involuntary. The pattern is a highly stereotypic, culturally labeled state which locally is differentiated clearly from insanity. Geertz, basing her observations on an extended period of fieldwork on Java, found that latah appears to have an intimate internal relationship to the most valued norms of Malayo—Indonesian culture — that it draws its energy and possibly its psychic motivation from its very contrast to these norms. Indonesian culture emphasizes order, self-control, and courtesy, and the latah — generally an older woman — contravenes all three.

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  • Sexual Organ
  • Sexual Content
  • Evil Spirit
  • Multiple Personality
  • Spirit Possession

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© 1983 D. Reidel Publishing Company

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Kenny, M.G. (1983). Paradox Lost: The Latah Problem Revisited. In: Simons, R.C., Hughes, C.C. (eds) The Culture-Bound Syndromes. Culture, Illness, and Healing, vol 7. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-009-5251-5_5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-009-5251-5_5

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Dordrecht

  • Print ISBN: 978-90-277-1859-4

  • Online ISBN: 978-94-009-5251-5

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