W HAT is it like to be a Muslim who is possessed by a jinn spirit? How do you find refuge from madness and evil spirits when you live in a place like Denmark? In this book I analyse some of the ways in which Muslims in the West have sought to protect themselves. During fieldwork conducted over several years, I followed Muslim patients while they were being treated in a Danish mosque and in a psychiatric hospital. Some of the Muslims I worked with found healing in psychotropic therapy, but many turned to Islam to find protection from the
This article discusses how Armenians have collected, displayed and exchanged the
bones of their murdered ancestors in formal and informal ceremonies of
remembrance in Dayr al-Zur, Syria – the final destination for hundreds of
thousands of Armenians during the deportations of 1915. These pilgrimages –
replete with overlapping secular and nationalist motifs – are a modern variant
of historical pilgrimage practices; yet these bones are more than relics. Bone
rituals, displays and vernacular memorials are enacted in spaces of memory that
lie outside of official state memorials, making unmarked sites of atrocity more
legible. Vernacular memorial practices are of particular interest as we consider
new archives for the history of the Armenian Genocide. The rehabilitation of
this historical site into public consciousness is particularly urgent, since the
Armenian Genocide Memorial Museum and Martyr’s Church at the centre of the
pilgrimage site were both destroyed by ISIS (Islamic State in Syria) in
What is it like to be a Muslim possessed by a jinn spirit? How do you find refuge
from madness and evil spirits in a place like Denmark? As elsewhere in
Europe and North America, Danish Muslims have become hypervisible through
intensive state monitoring, surveillance, and media coverage. Yet their religion
remains poorly understood and is frequently identified by politicians,
commentators, and even healthcare specialists as the underlying invisible cause
of ‘integration problems’. Over several years Christian Suhr followed
Muslim patients being treated in a Danish mosque and in a psychiatric hospital.
With this book and award-winning film he provides a unique account of the
invisible dynamics of possession and psychosis, and an analysis of how the
bodies and souls of Muslim patients are shaped by the conflicting demands of
Islam and the psychiatric institutions of European nation-states. The book
reveals how both psychiatric and Islamic healing work not only to produce relief
from pain, but also entail an ethical transformation of the patient and the
cultivation of religious and secular values through the experience of pain.
Creatively exploring the analytic possibilities provided by the use of a camera,
both text and film show how disruptive ritual techniques are used in healing to
destabilise individual perceptions and experiences of agency, so as to allow
patients to submit to the invisible powers of psychotropic medicine or God.
built up a conglomerate of analytical arguments and perspectives not entirely dissimilar to the vision described by Borges. While weaving in and out of Islamic exorcisms and psychiatry I have considered these treatments from multiple sides and angles. It seems as if these perspectives and the multiple and often disconnected fragments that constitute the experience of fieldwork have come to fit as nuts and bolts within an overall theoretical framework – an argument about exorcism and psychiatry as being essentially about the same thing, namely the dissolution
with respect to medical motives, but also the construction of sacred reality with respect to religious motives’.
This book and film examine the similarities and differences between how healing is pursued and understood in psychiatric healthcare and by Muslim shaykhs in Denmark. A key insight of my research has been to discover the ways in which the ‘sacred’ and what, with Merleau-Ponty, Levinas, and Kierkegaard, I have referred to as the ‘invisible’ play a role in both Islamic exorcisms as well as in psychiatric healthcare
who understand how to deal with it. Here in Denmark it is not like this.
In 2011 I was barely able to talk to a person without being presented with a new story about someone being or having been possessed, attacked by magic, or inflicted by the evil eye at some point in their lives. This had to do partly with me having decided or accepted to take on some of the Islamic practices of worship. A couple of times I broke down in overwhelming experiences during prayer. The people in the mosque continually emphasised that my tears were an
State violence and death politics in
post-revolutionary Iran 1
Chowra Makaremi 2
From 9 January to 19 July 2012, the Iranian daily Gooya News,
one of the Iranian diaspora’s main information sites, published
a series of forty-one articles, entitled ‘Interviews with a torture
and rape witness’. The tortures and rapes in question were from
the period of violent state repression that gripped the Islamic
Republic throughout the 1980s. The interviews give voice to the
anonymous testimony of an official involved in the penitentiary
and judicial sphere of that period
the project had previously been engaged in small-scale crime, drug dealing, hash smoking, or alcohol abuse. Most of them had experienced a hard time growing up in the Danish school system. For them, neo-orthodox Islam was a way of escaping all of this, purifying their hearts, and getting their lives back on track (Suhr 2014 ).
I was looking forward to making an ethnographic film about their ambitious project of transforming the biker gang club house into a centre for pious Muslim youth. After five or six weeks, however, the project came to
freely as they want. I hope nothing has followed me on the way home from the mosque. I know I shouldn't be afraid of the jinn. As I start to write this fieldnote my left index finger begins to vibrate. I know this feeling from before, but I don't like that it starts now.
It stops. Thank you, God.
I have suggested the term self-sacrifice as somehow useful in understanding healing in psychiatric healthcare and Islamic exorcism, but I have not specifically discussed how such
is fine,’ Aziz replies.
‘Christian is doing a research project and film about healing and Islam. About how Muslims understand healing and illness.’
I explain my project to Aziz. I am interested in understanding how people can be attacked by magic, the evil eye, or become possessed by jinn, and how it is possible to cure these forms of illnesses. Aziz immediately takes over the conversation:
‘They give me these pills, they say I have to take pills, but the pills do not help anything. I