Damned Experiences: Border Work on Spiritual and Pathological Phenomena in Mental Health Care and Catholic Pastoral Practice

By:
Jan Palecek,
Dr. Zdenek Konopasek
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In our ongoing ethnographic research on spiritual and religious experience in mental health care we focus on cases of people experiencing something what could be also labelled as supernatural voices or revelations. We are interested in how these persons and their experiences are treated by psychiatry or by pastoral work. In both these fields such phenomena appear quite frequently and their status is to be performed. They happen to be either pathological or spiritual ones (or they can be kept somewhere in between). Based on our data, we ask questions as, for instance, how it came, in terms of situated practical action, that a man, who had met Jesus and God and felt condemned by them, was diagnosed as schizophrenic? How it came that his interpretation of that meeting was refused by a priest as something impossible? And how it came, on the other hand, that his experience was accepted by another psychiatric professional – a psychologist? It seems that both in psychiatry and pastoral practice interesting border work is being done. Spiritual experiences are translated into a diagnosis and back, depending on the organizational arrangement of a care. In the presentation, we will introduce several brief and sketchy examples that illustrate practical performance of such translations.


Keywords: Mental Health Care, Pastoral Practice, Psychiatry, Spirituality
Stream: Anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Studies, Humanities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Jan Palecek

Researcher, Center for Theoretical Study, Charles University in Prague & The Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
Praha, Czech Republic

Jan Paleček has graduated from Charles University in Prague with degree in sociology. He worked with mentally ill people as a sociotherapist. He worked also in organizations working on the reform in Psychiatrics. Originally, he wanted to be an architect, but it seems he mixed it up. He explored the market for some time. Now, he is pleased to be back to the topic of mental illness again: he is involved in research project Spiritual and religious experience in psychiatry (Centre for theoretical study); he also works as a head of psychiatric rehabilitation in Eset-Help.

Dr. Zdenek Konopasek

Researcher, Center for Theoretical Study, Charles University in Prague & The Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
Praha, Czech Republic

As sociologist of science, he is based at the Center for Theoretical Study, the institute for advanced studies of Charles University in Prague and the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. Also, since 2005 he lectures at the Faculty of Social Studies, Masaryk University in Brno. His main areas currently are Science and Technology Studies, especially the relationships between science and politics. He has also published on power and resistance under state socialism, computer assisted qualitative data analysis and institutions of the welfare state. He edited Our Lives as Database: Doing a Sociology of Ourselves - Czech Social Transitions in Autobiographical Research Dialogues (Charles University Press 2000).

Ref: I07P0710