How to become a patient
in Descending with angels
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Chapter four takes a further step into the specific healing interactions between Muslim patients, psychiatrists, and Quranic healers by analysing how the Islamic and psychiatric treatments that are shown in the accompanying film depend on an oscillation between making visible and keeping invisible – between giving a tangible visual form to the suffering of patients and to possible paths for their healing, and yet simultaneously disabling and dismantling other possible visualisations. Iconoclastic practices in both psychiatric healthcare and Islamic exorcism are related to the issue of faith in healing and the necessity of doubt in order to attain faith. The widely disputed notion of ‘patient’ is of key importance. In contrast to recent user-oriented and holistic approaches in psychiatry, as well as a number of studies in medical anthropology that tend to emphasise healing as an effect of human self-creativity, the issue in the treatments the author studied was not framed in terms of how to gain agency; rather, the main concern was ‘how to become a patient’, which involved the surrender of individual agency in favour of allowing something else to do the work of healing.

Descending with angels

Islamic exorcism and psychiatry: a film monograph

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