Islamic exorcism and psychiatry: a film monograph
Author: Christian Suhr

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.

Christian Suhr

explanation, Jørgen told me about the great significance of placebo in all healthcare. His explanation was strongly critical and, to use Michael Taussig's ( 1999 : 3) vocabulary, even defacing of the truth-value of this peculiar practice of healing through blood tapping. Yet in a curious way Jørgen's defacement of the Islamic healing practices also evolved into a self-critique, a kind of self-defacement: ‘We're allowed to reveal that it is the procedures in contact with a human being that count the most.’ Jørgen continues: ‘We can give a

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bequeath to the white friars at London, to pray for me, 20s.; also to the prioress and convent of Clerkenwell, to pray for me, 40s.; also to the prioress and convent of Langley, to pray for me, 40s. Also, I will that a thousand masses and as many recitations of Placebo and Dirige be said for me immediately after my decease, with each priest to have 4d. (the total for this

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through one nostril, these studies were placebo-controlled and double-blind. This means that neither the scientists nor the study participants knew who got the real OT versus a dummy spray until after the results were in. (This kind of design is usually considered the gold standard for assessing causation. On the other hand, it’s also been called a “golden calf” because scientists are sometimes so in awe of it they forget to properly examine the actual study materials, statistics, or results.) These foundational studies have delivered a range of important, if tentative

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Margaret Brazier and Emma Cave

treatment, and another be given the experimental and hopefully more effective treatment; or (b) one group will be given a new drug, and the other a placebo. 126 For an outsider there are a number of worrying features to RCTs. First, there is again the question of consent. Second, there is concern that the control group is denied a chance of superior treatment. 127 In particular, public anxiety was highlighted by a trial involving 3,000 women at risk of conceiving a spina bifida baby. Studies had shown that similar women appeared to suffer a reduced incidence of

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practice equates to authoritative recognition and corroboration of a medical problem: emotive success. In and of itself this was doubtless a form of relief. It has become newly important in such figures of pathology and cure, therefore, to make a serious commitment to exploring how far remedies actually worked. In what Javier Moscoso has called the ‘moral economy of hope’, historians of experience and cultural historians of medicine take seriously contemporary research into the placebo effect and ask how historical iterations of this might have been brought

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, with the money or sums of money derived from the aforesaid lands, tenements, rents and services, hold and observe the anniversary of Richard Smyth and Alice his wife, the father and mother of me the aforesaid Christina, within the college or Chapel of St George abovesaid, on the 1st day of the month of March, as is fitting, solemnly singing Placebo and Dirige for the souls of

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censures. 1 See above, p. 87 n. 13. 2 See above, p. 105 n. 42. Placebo was the first word of Vespers in the Office of the Dead, and used like Dirige as a shorthand to signify that service

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convent of the abbey of the Blessed Mary, York, for one obit, namely Placebo and Dirige 21 and a Requiem Mass to be said for my soul and for the souls of my parents and all the faithful departed, £2 . I leave to my wife, Margaret, one gold ring with a ruby set and one chest bound with iron, being in the abbey of the Blessed Mary. And to William my son, two other gold rings

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Placebo-Controlled Trials and HIV Infected Pregnant Women in Developing Countries: Ethical Imperialism or Unethical Exploitation?’, Bioethics, 15:4 (2001), pp. 289–311; p. 290. 29 J. Harris, ‘Pro-Life is Anti-Life: The Problematic Claims of Pro-Life Positions 84 Grounding moral arguments in Ethics’, in M. Hayri and T. Takala (eds.), Scratching the Surface of Bioethics (Amsterdam, New York: Rodopy, 2003), pp. 99–109. 30 Ibid. p. 100. 31 Ibid. p. 101.

in From reason to practice in bioethics