Accepted Paper:

Gender as a trigger for medical pluralism: differing experiences of madness among Moroccan Berbers  


Matthew Carey (University of Copenhagen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores gendered attitudes towards madness, mental disability and their treatment among highland Moroccan Berbers. It focuses on the differences between men and women’s experiences of being labelled as ‘mad’ and the plurality of possible responses to such ascriptions, from social exclusion to pilgrimage or psychiatric medication.

Paper long abstract:

Madness and mental disability are highly gendered forms of illness/suffering among highland Berbers. Not only are women far more likely to be defined as mad, but the social treatment meted out to them also differs radically from that accorded men. Where madmen are normally married off and kept under the tutelage of brothers or uncles, women are often 'exiled' to high mountain pastures and/or 'denied' marriage opportunities. These differences are also reflected at the level of medical approaches. Women are more likely to respond to their illness by performing (collective) pilgrimage and trance - their illness isolates them and they respond publicly and/or collectively. Men, in contrast, often seek a Western bio-medical response to their suffering and endeavour to keep it within the private domain. This paper explores these divergences and analyses local people's own interpretations of the differing regimes of treatment available to them. It also looks at how they relate to the different sorts of practitioners to whom they have recourse, from religious specialists (fqihs) to city doctors and French NGO nurses, exploring the ways in which these encounters shape their understandings of the issues.

Panel W014
From medical pluralism to therapeutic plurality: medical anthropology and the politics of diversity, knowledge, and experience from multiple perspectives