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Out of Place

Out of Place: Madness in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea

Michael Goddard
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Out of Place
    Book Description:

    The Kakoli of the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG), the focus of this study, did not traditionally have a concept of mental illness. They classified madness according to social behaviour, not mental pathology. Moreover, their conception of the person did not recognise the same physical and mental categories that inform Western medical science, and psychiatry in particular was not officially introduced to PNG until the late 1950s. Its practitioners claimed that it could adequately accommodate the cultural variation among Melanesian societies. This book compares the intent and practice of transcultural psychiatry with Kakoli interpretations of, and responses to, madness, showing the reasons for their occasional recourse to psychiatric services. Episodes involving madness, as defined by the Kakoli themselves, are described in order to offer a context for the historical lifeworld and praxis of the community and raise fundamental questions about whether a culturally sensitive psychiatry is possible in the Melanesian context.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-095-1
    Subjects: Anthropology, Health Sciences, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xii-xiii)
  5. Map
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    This book is based on anthropological fieldwork conducted in 1985/1986 in the upper Kaugel Valley, Western Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG). The fieldwork was for my doctoral dissertation on madness and psychiatry in PNG, which was never published, though I have produced a handful of related journal articles. Recently I was reminded by a colleague of the paucity of Melanesian ethnography dealing with the subject of ‘mental illness’ and was persuaded to review my thesis and modify it for the purposes of a monograph, more than two decades on. At the time of my fieldwork it was not yet...

  7. 1 The Development of Psychiatry in Papua New Guinea
    (pp. 15-40)

    In 1957 the Australian Ministry for Territories commissioned the psychologist A. J. Sinclair to survey mental health among indigenes of what was then called the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Sinclair found almost nothing he could recognize as mental disorder among the colony’s native population (Sinclair 1957: 30) but made recommendations which led to the formal introduction of a mental health service, with the appointment in 1959 of a psychiatrist to head a mental health subdivision of the colonial Administration’s health department. For a decade or so this subdivision struggled to establish a psychiatric service in the territory, competing...

  8. 2 Psychiatric Theory and Practice in Papua New Guinea
    (pp. 41-63)

    In the previous chapter I contextualized psychiatry in PNG in the history of colonialism and its aftermath. From that perspective its contribution as an aspect of social control has been foregrounded, implicitly challenging psychiatry’s scientific and therapeutic self-understanding. Precedents for the perspective I have adopted can be found in a variety of critiques of psychiatry in Western society which have emerged since the 1960s. In one way or another, they have positioned psychiatry as a historical product of specific social, political, economic and ideational developments in Western societies (see, for example, Basaglia 1980; Doerner 1981; Foucault 1982, 2006; Mellett 1982;...

  9. 3 Madness and the Ambivalent Use of Psychiatry in the Kaugel Valley
    (pp. 64-88)

    A diagnostically cautious psychiatrist would have found very few cases of serious mental illness in the upper Kaugel Valley in the mid 1980s. In the duration of my fieldwork I knew of only two or three people who I considered might be classified by a psychiatrist as having a psychotic condition of the order of, say, schizophrenia or manic depression. A handful of others might have been diagnosed as having minor, or temporary, psychiatric disorders, but the number was negligible among the population of more than 20,000 at the time. The foregoing declarations, of course, need a great deal of...

  10. 4 Affliction and Madness
    (pp. 89-109)

    In this and the following chapter I describe some episodes ofkekelepaamong the Kakoli that were more than momentary and minor breaches of Kakoli sociality. I have already made a distinction betweenkekelepaitself, which for the Kakoli was a behavioural estrangement, and the discourse of its causes and explanations (and here I appear to differ from Brandewie [1981: 77–78] and perhaps some other anthropologists of highlands PNG). The discourse did not amount to a logics of causality, but was categorically wide-ranging and open to speculation about physical and non-physical, and ordinary and extra-ordinary, factors. It is noticeable,...

  11. 5 The Social Construction of Madness: Lopa’s Season
    (pp. 110-124)

    This chapter, in which I give a third account of madness, thematically extends my previous observation that Kakoli discourses about mad individuals are also stories of themselves collectively. Just as Kakoli experiences and reflections were embedded in the discourses of the madness of Kapiye and Wanpis in the previous chapter, the story of a madman presented below reveals significant aspects of their sociality. The dialectical relationship between thekekelepaperson and the community is particularly salient in the episode related here. The social construction of madness is explicit in the narrative of the effect of communal anticipations, reactions and recollections...

  12. 6 The Social Construction of Madness: The Mad Giant
    (pp. 125-144)

    In this chapter a story of madness is again told which reveals as much about Kakoli sociality as it does of the person whose madness they narrated. And once again the dialectical relationship between thekekelepaperson and the community is particularly salient. A contrast with the account in the previous chapter is that where no ‘cause’ was mooted by the community for the madness of Lopa, the question of causation is an interesting part of the story below. Further, the community’s portrayal of an individual as violently and dangerously mad was not matched by his actual behaviour, raising questions...

  13. Conclusion: In Anticipation of a Kakoli Ethnopsychiatry
    (pp. 145-154)

    A critical theme in the early part of this book was the ideological nature of psychiatric theory which has served to legitimate a form of social control by representing the latter as a therapeutic concern for the mental health of individuals. This perspective informed my description of the formal introduction of psychiatry in PNG. Psychiatrists in the 1950s argued that there would be an inevitable rise in madness under the onslaught of civilization, and concern about a generalized ‘stress of civilization’ legitimated the institutionalization of psychiatry in the late colonial period. The weakness of the argument (for no practical evidence...

  14. Appendix A: Orthography
    (pp. 155-156)
  15. Appendix B: Glossary of Umbu Ungu Terms
    (pp. 157-159)
  16. References
    (pp. 160-169)
  17. Index
    (pp. 170-173)